Lawyers push to find more alleged police torture victims from Burge era
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter December 16, 2013 8:24PM
Former police Cmdr. Jon Burge. | Sun-Times files
Updated: January 18, 2014 6:31AM
Lawyers trying to free Illinois prisoners tortured into false confessions and wrongly convicted are pushing a legal strategy to help find more alleged victims under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s watch.
Attorney Locke Bowman asked Cook County Judge Paul Biebel on Monday to grant class status to alleged torture victims from the Burge era. He said “good faith” estimates put the number of Illinois prisoners falsely locked up at about 40.
That’s out of more than 800 prisoners from Cook County during Burge’s time, Bowman said.
But he said that number could be whittled down more effectively if class status is granted — leading to a cooperative review of the prisoners’ case files.
Asst. Special State’s Attorney Andrew Levine argued against the move. He said the individual cases of alleged Burge victims don’t have enough in common with each other to be classified under one class.
He said Bowman and his colleagues should work instead with the state’s torture commission, though Bowman and co-counsel Joey Mogul argued the commission is under-funded and subject to political whims.
Burge himself is serving a 4 1/2-year federal prison sentence for perjury connected to the torture allegations.
And no one in Biebel’s courtroom disputed Monday there is a lingering issue in Illinois of prisoners who may have been tortured into false confessions.
Just last week, a Cook County judge tossed the conviction of Stanley Wrice, who spent 30 years in prison for a brutal gang rape.
The judge did so after a key witness in the case recanted, and two former detectives who worked for Burge invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to testify when asked if they tortured Wrice into giving a false statement.
Prosecutors have since dropped the charges against Wrice, whose name came up often in Monday’s hearing.
“Who yet remains to follow behind Stanley Wrice?” Bowman said.
Biebel said he will issue a written opinion on the matter March 12.