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The [Wednesday] Papers

The Daley deposition is off - for now.

"Daley, through his city-paid attorneys, sent [attorney Flint] Taylor a letter saying 'no,'" Carol Marin writes. "Under no circumstances will he sit for questioning by lawyers representing men who claim to have been tortured by Chicago Police."

In this case, that man is Michael Tillman, who spent 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

"Even the man who convicted him in a bench trial in 1986, Judge Kenneth Gillis, admits to second thoughts. Knowing now what he did not know then about Tillman's torture, Judge Gillis stated in a June deposition, 'I'm ashamed I convicted him.'"

*

I wonder if anyone at the big book party gala bothered to ask Rahm Emanuel about the lack of cooperation coming from the attorneys he employs. Nah, they were too busy chumming around and enjoying the good-time musical stylings of Rahm fundraiser Jeff Tweedy.

*

Maybe if the torture occurred under Cook County State's Attorney Dick Cheney . . .

*

How was Tillman's case covered in real-time? Let's take a look from then to now.

Murder Shatters Teen's Baseball Dream
By Rosalind Rossi
Sun-Times
August 21, 1986:

Steven Bell juggled three jobs this summer so he could return to college and work toward his dream of being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While at Bloom Township High School, Bell so impressed Pirate scouts that they recommended he attend Kishwaukee Junior College, whose baseball team was rated fourth in the state last year. The 18-year-old was hoping for a Pirate draft in January.

But his dream was shattered yesterday when prosecutors announced he had been indicted with two other men in the murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault of Betty Howard, a 42-year-old postal worker.

Howard was found stabbed, shot and tied to a radiator on July 21 in a vacant apartment at 2860 E. 76th. She lived in the building and Bell had been doing part-time painting there for the janitor, Michael Tillman .

Bell, of 10215 S. Calhoun; Tillman, 20, of 2860 E. 76th, and Clarence Trotter, 27, of 6942 S. Chappel, are being held without bond.

"I can't believe this is happening," said Pamela Johnsen, 43, the mother of Bell's Kishwaukee roomate. "Steve is a great kid. Baseball was his dream. They're destroying him, destroying his future."

Bell's mother, Luana Bell, 40, said her son worked as a packer at Johnson Hair Products, as a Burger King restaurant counterman and did painting for Tillman to raise money to attend Kishwaukee, in downstate Malta.

Bell's attorney, George Howard, insisted Bell was at Johnson Products or a Burger King restaurant at the time of the slaying.

He said that for two days, police were unable to obtain a judge's approval to hold Bell, so on the third day, under pressure to release Bell, they said he had admitted to police his role in the killing. But Howard says his client denies that.

*

Cop Tells Of Confession In Murder
By Rudolph Unger
Tribune
Dec. 2, 1986:

A Chicago police detective testified Monday that one of two young men on trial on charges of sexually assaulting and killing a 42-year-old woman in a vacant apartment on the South Side last July made a detailed confession to the crime.

The body of Betty Howard was discovered July 21 bound to a radiator in a vacant apartment at 2860 E. 76th St., the building where she lived. Her 2- year-old son was found alive by police in a bathroom of the same apartment.

On trial this week before Judge Kenneth Gillis of Cook County Circuit Court are Steven Bell, 18, of 10215 S. Calhoun Ave., and Michael Tillman, 20.

Both had been working as painters in the building at the time of the attack, and Tillman lived there.

Friends and relatives last summer expressed disbelief at Bell's arrest, saying he was a hard worker, a baseball player at Kishwaukee Junior College who was being scouted by professional teams and "a great kid."

Detective Ronald Boffo of the Pullman Area violent crimes unit testified Monday under questioning by Assistant State's Atty. Lawrence Lykowski.

Boffo said that on July 21, Tillman showed police and members of Howard's family where her body was while police were responding to a missing person's report.

Tillman said he had found something suspicious in a seventh-floor apartment, and later told the family members, 'That's your momma,' when a flashlight revealed the victim, Boffo testified. Boffo said he and his partner discovered the child in the bathroom.

On July 22, Boffo said, Tillman and Bell were questioned by police. After being told his rights, Bell made a lengthy statement, Boffo said.

According to Boffo, Bell said the following:

On the night of July 19, Bell and Tillman were in the elevator of Howard's building when they saw Howard on the fifth floor, where she lived.

Bell said Tillman stopped the elevator and Bell grabbed Howard and pushed her into her apartment, where Tillman tied up the child. Bell said he pushed the woman to the floor, disrobed her, assaulted her and took money from her handbag.

Bell said Tillman suggested they take Howard to the seventh floor, where Tillman tied her and gagged her. Bell said he tightened the knots. After Tillman threatened her with a knife, Bell and Tillman had sex with her, Bell said.

Bell said that when the woman made noise, he took the knife and stabbed her once, and Tillman took the knife and stabbed her numerous times.

A third man, Clarence Trotter, 27, of 6942 S. Chappel Ave., whose fingerprints allegedly were found at the scene, is scheduled to be tried later in connection with the crime.

*

1 Convicted, 1 Freed In Bizarre Death Case But More Are Involved, Judge Says
By Linnet Myers
Tribune
Dec. 19, 1986:

One man was found guilty and a second was found innocent Thursday of a brutal murder that involved perplexing twists of evidence, a missing murder weapon and a young college student with hopes of becoming a professional baseball player.

Steven Bell, 18, left the courtroom a free man, acquitted of the murder of 42-year-old Betty Howard. Michael Tillman, 20, put his hand over his face and shook his head when he was found guilty of the murder and sexual assault.

Meanwhile, Cook County Criminal Court Judge Kenneth Gillis told the courtroom that "more criminal agents than are sitting in this courtroom now were involved in this case."

According to police, Bell and Tillman confessed to the murder of Howard, who was found July 21 in her building at 2860 E. 76th St., stabbed and shot to death.

Her young son was locked in a bathroom, unharmed. The day before, relatives missed them when they failed to come to the child's 2d birthday party.

In their alleged confessions, both Tillman - the building's janitor - and Bell spoke of stabbing Howard. But neither mentioned the gunshot to her head, and the murder weapon remained missing for three weeks after their arrests.

When the handgun was found, it was traced to Clarence Trotter, a 27-year- old man with no apparent connection to either Tillman or Bell. Trotter was found with stolen goods from Howard's apartment - and his fingerprints were found on the murder scene. He is awaiting trial for the murder.

When he argued for Bell's innocence, defense lawyer Daniel Franks placed a row of chairs in front of Judge Gillis - chairs that he said symbolized missing participants in the crime.

The first chairs were for the men caught in Howard's stolen car; another chair was for the man who finally gave police the murder weapon; the last chair was for Trotter - the man Franks said was the real murderer.

Prosecutors Lawrence Lykowski and Lynne Kawamoto argued that Bell would never have confessed to the crime if he hadn't committed it. The judge himself told Bell that he didn't believe his charges that he confessed because he was beaten by Pullman Area police.

But the judge said Bell, who testified that he was working at a fast-food restaurant at the time of the crime, had a "solid alibi" and said other evidence against him was "not conclusive."

After the trial, Franks said that Bell's baseball coach at Kishwaukee Junior College "is waiting for him." The verdict "was fair all the way," said Bell's father, Ernest J. Bell.

Most of Howard's relatives said they still felt both men committed the crime. "But the judge can only go on what is presented to him," said her brother-in-law, James Howard. "He had a tough job."

Tillman, who could face the death penalty, will be sentenced Jan. 22.

*

South Sider Convicted Of '86 Murder
By Rosalind Rossi
Sun-Times
November 19, 1988:

A South Side man was convicted Friday of raping and killing a 42-year-old woman who was abducted outside her apartment while on her way to a birthday party for her 2-year-old son.

The victim, Betty Howard, was found July 21, 1986, shot in the temple, stabbed through the heart and tied to a radiator in a vacant apartment in the building where she lived, 2860 E. 76th St.

After the jury's verdict, Assistant State's Attorneys Scott Nelson and Lynne Kawamoto announced they would seek the death penalty for Clarence Trotter on Monday.

Assistant Public Defenders Mary Danahy and Ahmed Patel contended that two other men had admitted committing the crime, and they never mentioned that a third person was involved. One of those men, Michael Tillman , 22, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The other, Steven Bell, 20, was acquitted.

Prosecutors said Trotter's fingerprints were found on a soda can at the murder scene and the victim's stolen camera and stereo were discovered in his apartment at 6942 S. Chappell.

*

Court Rejects Conviction In 1986 Slaying
By Lou Ortiz
Sun-Times
September 16, 1993:

The Illinois Appellate Court on Wednesday threw out the murder conviction of a man who allegedly confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering a South Side woman in 1986.

The court said Clarence Trotter's conviction was based on a confession that police improperly obtained after Trotter said he wanted to talk to a lawyer.

Trotter will get a new trial in the death of Betty Howard, who allegedly was abducted as she walked to a birthday party for her 2-year-old son. She was found shot, stabbed and tied to a radiator in a vacant apartment in the building where she lived in the 2800 block of East 75th Street.

Trotter, one of three defendants in the case, was convicted in 1988 of murder, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and residential burglary. The other defendants were Michael Tillman , who got life in prison, and Steven Bell, who was acquitted.

Trotter's fingerprints were on a soda can at the murder scene, and Howard's camera and stereo were found in his South Side apartment. Trotter, who had three prior burglary convictions and a robbery conviction, was sentenced to life in prison.

"(The police) were eroding (the) defendant's will," the court said. "His statements were improperly obtained and should have been suppressed."

Prosecutors had argued that Trotter freely made the statements "because he was sick and tired of waiting for his lawyer," court records show.

*

Inmate Claiming Burge Torture Seeks To Be Freed - Locked Up 23 Years In case With No Evidence Tying Him To Crime, Only His Confession
By Maudlyne Ihejirika
SunTimes
July 22, 2009:

Over three days in police custody, Michael Tillman was beaten with a phone book, punched in the face and stomach until he vomited blood, had a plastic bag put over his head and 7 Up poured into his nose in a crude form of waterboarding, a court petition says.

Tillman, then 20, the father of a 3-year-old daughter and infant son, confessed to a crime he never committed after hours of torture under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge's officers, his attorneys say.

"It does not get any uglier than this case," said Locke Bowman of Northwestern University's MacArthur Justice Center, which with the People's Law Office has investigated several Burge cases.

And 23 years after Tillman's imprisonment, those attorneys on Tuesday filed a petition seeking to vacate his conviction in the murder and rape of 42-year-old mail clerk Betty Howard, and grant him a new trial.

Now 43, Tillman was arrested on July 22, 1986, in the murder of Howard, whose body was found in a building where Tillman lived with his girlfriend and was the janitor. He was convicted on Dec. 18, 1986, - absent any physical evidence and based solely on his confession - according to the petition filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Tillman's attorney raised the torture allegations at trial, but the judge refused to throw out his confession, and Tillman was sentenced to life in prison.

Police later arrested 27-year-old Clarence Trotter, who was found with Howard's possessions, and whose fingerprints and other physical evidence linked him to Howard's murder. Trotter too was charged and convicted, and given life in prison. But Tillman lost a 1999 appeal, when the judge in the appellate decision, while noting lack of evidence tying him to the crime or to Trotter, wrote that his confession was "sufficient."

"It took 23 years to get to this point because the system has failed at every step along the way, at the police level, the prosecution level, the appellate level," said Bowman.

Burge, former Area 2 commander, and more than 20 officers who worked with him have been accused of torturing confessions from murder victims in the 1970s and 1980s. Convictions in several Burge cases have been reversed, remanded or overturned, and tens of millions paid by the city in civil settlements.

Indicted last year on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to one of the civil suits, Burge is expected in court today on his pending January 2010 trial.

The People's Law Office and MacArthur Center claim 23 people who were tortured by Burge and his men still remain in prison, including Tillman, who is being held at Menard Correctional Center.

*

'Justice Prevailed,' Freed Inmate Says - Allegedly Tortured Under Burge, Tillman Out After 23 Years
By Rumanna Hussain
Sun-Times
January 15, 2010:

Alleged police torture victim Michael Tillman slowly let his newfound freedom sink in Thursday, indicating that the shock of leaving prison after 23 years was equally as jolting as being convicted for a crime he says he didn't commit.

"I'm glad that justice finally prevailed. It feels good. I have to take it one day at a time, just like jail," Tillman said after Cook County prosecutors' decision to drop charges stemming from the 1986 rape and murder of Betty Howard, 42.

Tillman is the latest of released former felons who claimed they were beaten under the authority of disgraced Area 2 Cmdr. Jon Burge. Tillman had been serving a life sentence.

"I want to get to know my family better," the 43-year-old father of two said.

Tillman has yet to be formally exonerated, but special assistant state's attorneys declined to retry him, citing "unreliable" and "forced confessions."

Tillman, 20 at the time of his arrest, said he was beaten with a phone book, punched in the face and stomach until he vomited blood, had a plastic bag put over his head and pop poured into his nose.

When it was over, he confessed to killing Howard and implicated two other men. One of those men never was charged and the other, Steven Bell, was acquitted.

Another man, Clarence Trotter, also was arrested and convicted for Howard's murder. Trotter was found with Howard's possessions, and his fingerprints and other physical evidence linked him to the mail clerk's killing.

Tillman lived and worked as a janitor in Howard's building at the time of the murder. Her daughter, Angelita, and fiance, Ora Russell, still believe Tillman had a hand in Howard's death and angrily voiced their disgust at Tillman's release.

Asked about how the case fell apart because of the police torture allegations, Russell said: "I'm sorry it fell apart, but . . . I would have did more than that to them."

When Tillman heard how Howard's family felt, he quietly replied, "Well, I was a victim, too."

OTHERS WHO HAVE GONE FREE

These men have gone free or been granted new trials after saying they confessed to crimes only after being beaten by detectives working under then-Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge:

- Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard, all pardoned by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2003.

- Mark Clements, released from prison in August after nearly 30 years in the slayings of four people in 1981. Clements says he is innocent but took a deal to plead guilty to one killing in exchange for his freedom.

- Ronald Kitchen, cleared in July of the 1988 drug-related slayings of two women and their three children on the Southwest Side.

- Cortez Brown, convicted of a 1990 slaying and granted a new trial in May.

- David Fauntleroy, against whom charges in a 1983 double murder were dropped in January 2009.

- Darrell Cannon, released in 2007 on a parole review decision after spending 23 years in prison.

*

Mayor Urges End To Burge Chapter
By Fran Spielman
Sun-Times
August 16, 2011:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he is "working towards" settling outstanding police torture allegations against convicted former Area 2 Cmdr. Jon Burge because it's "time we end" one of the ugliest chapters in the history of the Chicago Police Department.

"We have a future to build, not a past to settle. That's what I look at," the mayor said in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

"How old is this now - 30 years old? It is time we end it."

Emanuel talked about the possibility of compensating Michael Tillman and other victims of police torture, even as he defended his decision to provide a legal defense for former Mayor Richard M. Daley for his role in the case.

Daley has received notice to appear for a Sept. 8 deposition now that U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer has ruled that the former mayor can be sued as a defendant.

If the case is settled, the deposition will be avoided. Daley will not have to answer questions from attorneys representing alleged victims, all African American, who charge their abuse came at the hands of a small band of predominantly white police officers under Burge's Area 2 command.

"I know we can settle - and we're working towards that. Settlement is a possibility," the mayor said.

"But, in the case itself right now, I don't have a choice . . . As it relates to the former mayor's legal expenses, it is an ordinance of the city and it's required. I don't relish this. It's what's required. I've got to do it."

Last week the Chicago Sun-Times disclosed that Pallmeyer had ruled that Daley can be sued as a defendant against allegations that he helped engineer a citywide conspiracy to cover up the torture allegations.

Emanuel responded by walking a political tightrope on the Burge controversy. He argued that Burge should be denied a city pension but that Daley must be provided with a legal defense for his role in the case.

"I answered one question. Some people say, 'This pulls Rahm into it.' That's wrong. This is like the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," the mayor said Monday.

"This is the law. He's allowed to have the cost of his legal defense . . . That's it. I'm not part of it."

Burge was convicted last summer of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil court case when asked if he knew of the torture that went on under his watch. He is currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence in federal prison.

The Burge case has already cost Chicago taxpayers more than $43 million in settlements and outside legal fees.

Civil rights attorney Flint Taylor has urged Emanuel to enter into settlement negotiations to make a clean break with an ugly past that has undermined police-community relations in African-American neighborhoods.

"What's happening now is the city is throwing good money after bad by defending the indefensible. It's totally established that Burge tortured these people, yet the defense goes on," Taylor told the Sun-Times last week.

"Not only should he resolve these cases so taxpayers can compensate the victims rather than the torturers, he should apologize to the African-American community and to the victims for this pattern of torture."

In 2008, the City Council approved a $19.8 million settlement with four alleged torture victims, but Tillman 's case and others remain unsettled.

Tillman spent 23 1/2 years in the penitentiary based on a tortured confession. He has now been declared innocent by the chief judge of Criminal Court.

Sources close to Daley have argued that the former mayor's deposition is "not a done deal," because attorneys representing the former mayor have filed a motion to reconsider.

They're trying to block the deposition on grounds that Daley's involvement in the case stems from his tenure as state's attorney and that prosecutors have "absolute immunity."

A $7 million report by special prosecutors concluded that Burge and his Area 2 underlings tortured criminal suspects for two decades while police brass looked the other way. But the report concluded it's too late to prosecute because the statute of limitations has long since run out.

Delay has proven a most useful tactic, hasn't it?

The Freeing of Michael Tillman
Michael Miner's blog post from 2010 provides more insight than any of the daily newspaper accounts, especially given that he linked to the reporting done elsewhere on Tillman's case that was never done here.

"According to Tillman's 1986 trial testimony, when he arrived at the Area 2 police station in the predawn hours of July 22, 1986, Detectives Ronald Boffo and Peter Dignan took him to a second-floor interrogation room and pressed him for information about the murder of 42-year-old Betty Howard, whose body was found the day prior in the apartment building Tillman oversaw," Jessica Pupovac reported for AlterNet in 2008.

"When he told the detectives that he knew nothing about the murder, he says that Boffo and Dignan, along with three other officers, became abusive. Without ever reading him his Miranda rights, he says they handcuffed him to the wall, hit him in the face and punched him in the stomach until he vomited blood. During the course of what appeared to be three days, rotating pairs of officers brought him to the railroad tracks behind the station and held a gun to his head, suffocated him repeatedly with thick plastic bags, poured soda up his nose and forced him into Dumpsters outside of the apartment building, ordering him to search through the rubbish for a murder weapon until, according to Detective John Yucaitis, Tillman confessed to the crime."

*

Pupovac goes on to write:

"By 1999, it was 'common knowledge,' according to U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur, "that in the early to mid-1980s, (Jon Burge) and many officers working under him regularly engaged in the physical abuse and torture of prisoners to extract confessions. Both internal police accounts and numerous lawsuits and appeals brought by suspects alleging such abuse substantiate that those beatings and other means of torture occurred as an established practice, not just on an isolated basis."

Richard M. Daley was the Cook County State's Attorney from 1980 to 1989.

*

Is it any wonder that a full accounting of the "established practice" of those years never came to light during Daley's subsequent 22 years as mayor?

Two years less, by the way, than Tillman served in prison.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Vigilante justice.




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Posted on September 7, 2011


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