Editorial: Burge torture victim needs fair deal
Editorials January 25, 2013 11:52PM
10-27-08 Darrell Cannon, a police torture victim speaks Monday at a rally in Federal Plaza while John Burge was in Dirksen Federal Building awaiting a hearing. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:48AM
The story of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and police torture just keeps adding more bad chapters.
On Jan. 22, a federal judge dressed down city lawyers in the case of Darrell Cannon, who languished in prison for 24 years after he was tortured into giving a false murder confession in 1983.
Cannon, who settled his civil rights brutality case in 1988 for $3,000 before knowledge of police torture under Burge was public, wants a more reasonable settlement.
We understand the city can’t reopen every case in which plaintiffs wish they’d gotten a bigger payout. And settlements themselves need to be final, not just a step toward more litigation.
But in rare circumstances, you can reopen a settlement if authorities fraudulently withheld information until after a deal was reached. According to Appellate Judge Illana Rovner, this case meets that definition.
“Look, if a defendant destroys evidence of wrongdoing and the plaintiff knows it, does that mean that the more you lie, you cheat, you commit fraud in litigation, the greater your reward for forcing a small settlement?” Rovner asked city lawyers last week during arguments in the case.
“On what planet does he have meaningful redress in the courts under those circumstances? I mean, of course he was forced to settle unfavorably because the officers and perhaps the city have made it virtually impossible for him to prove his case,” she said at another point.
The city’s argument that there was no fraud was “unavailing, to be kind,” she said.
To its credit, the city has resolved many of the Burge torture cases. It should resolve this one — fairly — as well.