Retrial denied for convict who says cops coerced murder confession
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter February 13, 2014 1:02PM
Updated: February 13, 2014 3:55PM
A Cook County judge Thursday denied granting a new trial for a convicted murderer after citing apparent inconsistencies in the South Side man’s accounts of the police torture he said pushed him to confess.
Former Area 2 Detective James Pienta invoked his Fifth Amendment rights at Shawn Whirl’s post trial hearings.
And in 2012, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission supported Whirl’s claims.
But Whirl, now 44, “needs to be credible in order to sustain his burden in this case,” Judge Jorge Alonso said before announcing his decision Thursday.
Whirl, who is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence, confessed to the 1990 murder of cabbie Billy G. Williams and stayed silent about being beaten by Pienta for nearly two decades, Alonso noted.
Moreover, Whirl recently spoke about having his mouth smothered by a potato chip bag but had never talked about it before, the judge said.
Whirl also changed his stories about how he was hurt and whether Pienta was alone in the interrogation room, Alonso said.
He also said he was wearing red sweatpants when he was questioned when they were actually light blue, the judge said.
Alonso discussed at length the “atrocities” that happened at Area 2 under disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge.
While Burge didn’t “invent police torture,” he had since left Area 2 when Whirl was arrested, Alonso pointed out.
Whirl’s attorney G. Flint Taylor said he will appeal the ruling.
“We’re very disappointed. We thought we had a strong case,” the defense attorney said following the short hearing. Pienta was a Burge protégé, Taylor said.
Whirl’s mother also was disheartened but said she is hopeful her son will be free one day.
She said her son only pleaded guilty to Williams’ murder because he was “scared to death.”
“It’s not justice at all,” Erma Whirl, 75, said of Alonso’s decision.
Shawn Whirl’s brother Dwain Howard, 52, added, “I thought this was the American justice system. It certainly isn’t working.”