Trial Begins for Ex-Chicago Police Lt. Accused of Torturing More than 100 Black Men
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AMY GOODMAN: Go back to 1971. Can you reconstruct what began then, Flint Taylor?
FLINT TAYLOR: Certainly. Burge was at a POW camp in Vietnam in the late '60s. Of course, in Vietnam, we now know, there was electric shock used on people in POW camps of Vietnamese prisoners. At that time, it appears that Burge learned the techniques that he brought back to Chicago. In 1972, he became a detective at a South Side police station, where they interrogated suspects, almost predominantly African American suspects. In 1973, we first hear of the first victim of torture. That man was tortured with electric shock with a bag over his head, beaten into a false confession. From that point forward, the cases started to stack up through the '70s, '80s and all the way to 1991.
At the same time, Burge had moved from detective to sergeant to lieutenant in charge of the violent crimes unit to a commander of an entire police area. And so, as the cases of torture increased, he continued to be promoted. And more and more people, not just detectives, but supervisors and subsequently, as I mentioned, prosecutors, the chief prosecutor, the superintendent of the police, successive superintendants, they all came to know what was going on, and their response to it was rather than to stop the scandal, stop the systematic torture, was to promote Burge.
And only when the evidence mounted too high -- there were two public trials -- and the community became so outraged and demanded that Burge be fired, that anything was done. But to this day, and until a two years ago, there were no charges. And, in fact, the special prosecutor that you mentioned in your piece actually issued a whitewash report and in fact said the statute of limitations barred prosecution, when, of course, the U.S. attorney found otherwise.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course, torture is an extremely serious charge. As you said, it violates national and international law. But I'm surprised that just for obstruction of justice and for perjury, he faces forty-five years in prison.
FLINT TAYLOR: Well, that's the statute of limitations problem and one of the many unaddressed issues in Chicago. We are very pleased that Burge is being prosecuted, but there is much left to do, and that includes dealing with federal and state statutes, legislation that would make torture a specific crime. And since it's a crime against humanity, there would be no statute of limitations, like there is no statute of limitations for genocide or murder. And in that instance, in the future, if there were another Burge or other torture -- another torture ring and it were covered up successfully for many years, then he could still or they could still be prosecuted for torture.
And that is a major issue that’s still being dealt with by the activists here in the city of Chicago, along with the fact that twenty or twenty-five men are not as "fortunate" -- and I put quotes around "fortunate" -- as Darrell has been to be out now. And those men are still behind bars so many decades later, because of tortured confessions. And we're fighting those cases one by one. But, in fact, all those men should be given new trials, and they should be new trials without the tortured evidence, obviously.
And the other aspect that we feel very strongly about, the men, the henchmen that worked under Burge, and that includes the two right-hand men of Burge, self-admittedly, who tortured Darrell at the remote torture site, those men have yet to be charged. Now, there's an ongoing investigation into their perjury and obstruction of justice, but to this point, they haven't been indicted for the scores of cases where men have said that they tortured them. So there's much unfinished business, as well as there's many, many victims and survivors of police torture here in the city of Chicago who have received no compensation because of a similar statute of limitations in civil cases.