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The CIA Isn’t the Only Agency to Torture

With all the attention paid to the use of torture by the CIA and, to a lesser degree, by the military, many haven’t noticed that police departments have also engaged in torture to coerce confessions. In Illinois, it went on for decades until the lid was blown off it ten years ago. The Nation reports on the 10th anniversary of then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan granting clemency to everyone on death row in that state:

On January 11, 2003, the world watched as Illinois Governor George Ryan, days before leaving office, granted clemencies to all 163 men and women on death row in his state, reducing their sentences to life without parole. The previous day he had pardoned four death row prisoners—Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard—all of whom had been tortured into giving false confessions by police officers working under notorious Chicago police commander Jon Burge…

Ryan’s momentous actions were partly inspired by the case of Anthony Porter, who came within days of execution only to later be exonerated, thanks in large part to the work of journalism students at Northwestern University. Much credit has been awarded to their work in opening Ryan’s eyes—and rightly so. But Ryan’s actions were also the culmination of a long human rights struggle against the death penalty and police torture in Chicago. In the mid-1990’s, death row prisoners, community groups, political activists and public interest lawyers joined forces to unite these previously separate movements. After realizing that they were not alone in their horrific experiences at the hands of police, Burge torture victims facing execution formed the Death Row 10and ,with the help of activist groups such as the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, linked these two powerful issues. Along with the prisoners’ own descriptions of what happened, a series of devastating investigative reports by journalist John Conroy at the Chicago Reader shone light on the emerging mountain of evidence that Burge and his police confederates tortured more than 100 African-American suspects with a racist vengeance, using electric shock, suffocation with plastic bags, mock executions and brutal beatings. This evidence became a focal point for the merging of these important legal and political struggles.

Since then, a handful of victims have even gotten some measure of justice:

As a result, in October of 2008, thirty-five years after Burge tortured his first victim, United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald indicted him for falsely denying under oath that he participated in police torture. Subsequently, seven torture survivors were exonerated and released from prison, and several of them, including another Death Row 10 survivor Ronald Kitchen, were awarded certificates of innocence by Cook County Judges. In June of 2010, a federal jury convicted Burge of three counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, and he subsequently received a four-and-a-half-year sentence, which he is now serving, along with Bernie Madoff, at Butner Federal Correctional Center in North Carolina.

After their release, the seven exonerated men sued Burge and the city. In so doing, several of them named then-Mayor and former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley as a co-conspirator on the basis of his decades long knowledge of the torture scandal, his willful failure to prosecute Burge and his participation in the cover-up of the scandal. In a landmark decision issued in 2011, Federal Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer upheld the allegations against Daley in Michael Tillman’s case, and on the eve of Daley’s scheduled deposition, the City and County settled Tillman’s case for $6 million.

I’ve said many times that most Americans are blissfully unaware of just how corrupt and unjust American’s criminal “justice” system is from top to bottom. And if someone actually had a lot of money at stake in the outcome, the media might pay attention to it and the politicians might do something about it. But since most of the victims are poor black and Latino men, no one seems to care.

Comments

  1. psweet says

    And what a coincidence it was that the commission that finally concluded that Burge was responsible published weeks after the statute of limitations ran out on the possible torture charges!

  2. psweet says

    And what a coincidence it was that the commission that finally concluded that Burge was responsible published weeks after the statute of limitations ran out on the possible torture charges!

  3. says

    Governor George Ryan, days before leaving office, granted clemencies to all 163 men and women on death row in his state, reducing their sentences to life without parole.

    Given the extent to which being in prison can itself be torture, I wonder if all of those men and women considered this a good thing.

  4. slc1 says

    Rather ironic that former Governor Ryan ended up in the slammer himself after being convicted of corruption charges. He still resides there.

  5. baal says

    I’d like to add the immigration detention is often outside of even the minimal criminal due process protections (and its admin (read bureaucracy) isn’t better. The immigration detainees can be held with criminal prisoner populations as well as at immigration detention centers. Again, the unreasonable burdens are on mostly brown skin low wealth folks who may or may not have a right to be in the country but have a right to decent treatment regardless.

  6. says

    If every politician got to spend a week as a guest in a supermax, we’d see an urgent need for reform, you bet. I also thing that those who support torture should demonstrate how waterboarding and solitary confinement aren’t so bad, by electing to experience it first hand.

  7. says

    If every politician got to spend a week as a guest in a supermax, we’d see an urgent need for reform, you bet. I also thing that those who support torture should demonstrate how waterboarding and solitary confinement aren’t so bad, by electing to experience it first hand.

    With their identities unknown, please, so as to avoid preferential treatment….in either direction.

  8. slc1 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #7

    Chickenshit fucktard Kevin Hannity said several years ago that he would undergo waterboarding to prove that it wasn’t torture. We’re still waiting for the demonstration.

  9. Rip Steakface says

    I believe I remember Hitchens electing to be waterboarded and was convinced by the experience that it was torture.

  10. says

    I think Mancow also agreed water boarding as torture after experiencing it first hand. He got a lot of heat from his fellow conservatives over it, too.

    Hannity already knows it’s torture, which is why he’ll never keep his promise to under go it.

    Coward.

  11. says

    “The CIA Isn’t the Only Agency to Torture”

    Yeah, I’m thinking that the IRS deserves it too, also!

    I never dug too deeply into it, but I do remember a rumor circulating back at the time of his indictment that there were some VERY pissed off reactionary reptilicans that were happy to fuck him as much as possible over his “selling out” to sanity.

  12. dingojack says

    Marcus – you posted: “If every politician got to spend a week as a guest in a supermax, we’d see an urgent need for reform, you bet.”
    Reminded me of this:
    “Prompted by a family friend, Stephen Grellet, [Elizabeth] Fry [1780-1845] visited Newgate prison. The conditions she saw there horrified her. The women’s section was overcrowded with women and children, some of whom had not even received a trial. They did their own cooking and washing in the small cells in which they slept on straw. Elizabeth Fry wrote in the book Prisons in Scotland and the North of England that she actually stayed the nights in some of the prisons and invited nobility to come and stay and see for themselves the conditions prisoners lived in”..

    Dingo

  13. says

    I was tortured for almost 3 years by the FBI and their friends only
    because 85 years old man, Roland Sibens(chicago) convinced them that I
    am a terrorist. I was tortured for working on my prosthetic legs in
    the basement. I done absolutely nothing illegal or wrong. They thought
    that in theory it is possible to hide bomb in them. They saw an
    opportunity to get famous, so they were trying to torture me till I
    sign their insane story. They tortured me using more than 100
    different torturing methods and trust to me waterboarding is not how
    they torture nowadays. I dont know where to find justice.

    I think that after 9/11 things got out of control. Freedom fighters
    became tyrants. In 1945, most Germans had an opportunity to learn about Nazis death
    camps. I hope that one day American citizens will get chance to learn about people
    like me, who were tortured with no reason for years.

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