County commissioner vows to seek prosecution of Burge
Ex-official would be focus of torture case
Thursday, June 14, 2007
by Mickey Ciokajlo
Victims of police torture and their advocates have yet to receive a long-sought hearing in City Hall but they got one Wednesday in the Cook County Building, where a commissioner pledged to push a resolution urging federal prosecution of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his men.
Commissioner Earlean Collins (D-Chicago), chairwoman of the Criminal Justice Committee, said she didn't know if colleagues would support her, but she said Burge and his officers need to be held accountable.
A county-appointed prosecution team concluded last year that Burge led the torture of suspects in the 1970s and 1980s but that the statute of limitations to bring state charges had expired. Burge, who was fired by the city in 1993, has long denied that he tortured suspects.
The conclusion by prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle that Burge could not be charged has angered victims' advocates, who issued their own report in April calling the prosecutors' report a whitewash.
Collins said Wednesday that it was important to hear from the victims and their supporters even though Egan and Boyle declined to appear before her committee.
"It keeps the vigil alive and recognizing that the injustice did occur," Collins said. "For humanitarian purposes alone, I think we have a moral responsibility to deal with this."
Last month, Chicago aldermen submitted a resolution to bring Egan and Boyle before them to answer questions about their report. No hearing date has been set.
Hearings in City Hall likely would take on added tension given that much of the advocates' ire is aimed at Mayor Richard Daley, who was the Cook County state's attorney in the 1980s when some of the alleged torture was committed.
Egan and Boyle appeared publicly last summer before the county's Litigation Subcommittee and defended their report. But criticism of their work has increased since then.
In a letter to Collins, Egan and Boyle cited the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government in declining to appear before her committee. They said it would set a bad precedent for board members to question them about why indictments were not brought.
Collins said the men were free to decline her invitation to appear but she called the rationale "insulting." Collins said she also would propose that the county stop funding the special prosecutor's office, which has received $6.6 million since the team was appointed in 2002.
In their letter, Egan and Boyle also contended that lawyers for torture victims would use the county hearing to advance federal lawsuits against the county and the city. They said they are preparing a response to the report issued by victims' advocates.
Locke Bowman, a lawyer who helped write the rebuttal report, said Egan and Boyle's claim that the hearing would be used to further pending civil litigation was offensive and a distraction from the main issue -- their failure to explain their findings.
During the nearly three-hour hearing, two dozen victims, family members and rights advocates testified about police torture and its effects.
"I need the animal [cruelty] society to join me," said Mary L. Johnson, who said police tortured her son. "If they knew what they was doing to human beings, I'd have something going on."