News One is reporting that 15 incarcerated men who claim they were sent to prison because of confessions that were beaten, burned and tortured out of them by convicted Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and his officers are getting some high-profile help — including from a former Illinois governor.
In a friend-of-the-court brief to be filed Wednesday with the Illinois Supreme Court, ex-Gov. Jim Thompson and more than 60 current and former prosecutors, judges and lawmakers are asking for new evidentiary hearings for inmates who say their convictions were based on coerced confessions.
The brief marks the first effort on behalf of alleged Burge victims as a group and not separate individual cases, attorneys said.
Burge's name has become synonymous with police abuse in the nation's third-largest city, and more than 100 men — most of them African American and Latino — have alleged that Burge and his men tortured them from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Burge was convicted last year of lying about whether he ever witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects. He's serving a 4 1/2-year sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.
Burge has never faced criminal charges for abuse. He was fired from the police department in 1993 over the 1982 beating and burning of Andrew Wilson, a suspect later convicted of killing two police officers.
The brief "gives the Illinois Supreme Court the opportunity to finally and firmly repudiate the Burge era of the Chicago Police Department," said Thompson, a former Republican Illinois governor and U.S. attorney.
Burge is accused of beating men in the face, with rubber hoses, burning suspects and engaging in other forms of torture in order to get confessions. Some of the men were convicted based on those confessions and are serving life sentences.
How tragic is it that you confess to a crime that you did not commit in order to stop torture being doled out by rogue cops? If it has been proved that Burge tortured suspects, then what is the holdup? These new evidentiary hearings should be fast-tracked so that if these men are found to be innocent, they don't have to spend a minute more in prison than they already have. Kudos to former Gov. Jim Thompson and the 60 other prosecutors for getting on board to do the right thing — which at the very least is to have new hearings.
Read more at News One.
In other news: NABJ 'Happy' for Al Sharpton Opportunity.