Tags: US | Police | Torture | Trial | Victims

Victims Are No Angels in Ill. Police Torture Case

Sunday, 13 Jun 2010 02:11 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

They're murderers, burglars, gang members and heroin addicts. They've spent more of their lives inside prison than out. Some couldn't go more than a few months without being arrested again.

They are, in other words, not the most sympathetic figures.

But they are the witnesses who federal prosecutors must rely on to try to bring down a decorated Chicago police officer accused of lying about the torture of suspects.

Prosecutors have alleged that former police Lt. Jon Burge and other white officers under his command shocked, beat and suffocated black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s in order to elicit murder confessions.

Those suspects were no angels, and some years, Chicago police were working to solve nearly twice as many homicides as the city has now. Police in many neighborhoods were fighting an uphill battle against ever-growing numbers of guns, drugs and gangs. The challenge for prosecutors is to convince jurors that no matter what crimes the men may have committed, Burge and other officers knowingly crossed the line between aggressive police work and illegal torture.

"If jurors see the victims not as victims but as criminals ... they're more likely to turn a blind eye to their abuse," said University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, who has studied and written about police abuse. "It's a real challenge for prosecutors trying to help jurors see the humanity of ... and identify with the torture victims."

Burge is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never seen or participated in the abuse of suspects.

So far, prosecutors have presented testimony from four men — Anthony Holmes, Melvin Jones, Andrew Wilson and Gregory Banks — who claim Burge or his men put plastic bags over their heads until they passed out, stuck guns in their mouths or shocked them with electric currents generated by an ominous-looking black box.

Holmes, Jones and Banks were admitted gang members, and Wilson was convicted of killing two Chicago police officers. Burge's defense attorneys have sought to use the men's criminal backgrounds against them, telling jurors at opening statements, "You're not going to like these people," saying they'd been wreaking havoc on the streets for years.

Attorney Flint Taylor, who has represented Wilson and several other alleged Burge victims, predicted before the trial that defense attorneys would attack the men's credibility to play up the notion that "these are just black suspects, so it was OK to torture them."

"We can't underestimate, at bottom, the racism involved in all of this," Taylor said. "The fact that it's about black victims and it's such blatantly racist conduct, I think, is a major aspect of why it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves."

Many men have alleged that Burge and his men used racial slurs as they abused them. Banks, a convicted burglar and former heroin addict, said one detective used the N-word when he told him officers had "something special" for black men just before he pulled a plastic bag over his head.

Ultimately, prosecutors must remind jurors that the men's guilt or innocence is irrelevant and that torture is the central issue, Futterman said.

The message must be "we don't torture, that's just not who we are in the United States of America," Futterman said. "That's unforgivable, and it doesn't matter to whom."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

McDonnell Denies Special Aid to Company for CEO's Gifts

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 22:31 PM

Former Virginia governor Governor Robert McDonnell told jurors he didn't provide special treatment to a company whose ch . . .

Drunk Teacher Wins Unemployment Benefits; Keeps License

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 23:10 PM

If Dennis Pagel had taken a box of school supplies while working as a teacher at Dallas-Center Grimes Middle School west . . .

Ferguson Counter-Protester Whisked to Safety

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 22:15 PM

A woman counter-protesting in favor of police officer Darren Wilson had to be whisked to safety Wednesday night after sh . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved