A lawsuit was filed in Chicago against police officers who were closely associated with Jon Burge, the disgraced commander who oversaw a regime of torture employed to coerce confessions. The regime spanned from the early 1970s to the 1990s.
Arnold Day, a 46 year-old black man, was only 18 when police arrested him in 1992. Officers forced him to sign two false confessions. He was wrongfully convicted of armed robbery and murder in 1994.
It was 26 years before Day convinced a legal body that he was innocent. In 2017, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission validated Day’s claims of torture. His convictions for armed robbery and murder were vacated on December 18, 2018. He was granted a certificate of innocence on April 4, 2019, and he currently works as a Goodwill Industries donation attendant.
“Since 1986, no fewer than 70 cases have come to light in which Chicago police officers fabricated false evidence or suppressed exculpatory evidence to convict innocent people for serious crimes they did not commit,” according to Loevy and Loevy, the law firm which filed the lawsuit on Day’s behalf.
The complaint [PDF] names multiple individuals, who were officers, as defendants allegedly responsible for wrongful incarceration and torture: Kenneth Boudreau, William Foley, Michael Kill, Dan McWeeny, James Brennan, Anthony Watson, and Marty Radtke.
It accuses the officers, as well as the city of Chicago, of violating Day’s Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Jerrod Irving was murdered after midnight on May 17, 1991, while he was sitting on his steps at 927 West 54th Street. Months later, on September 15, Rafael Garcia was murdered during an attempted robbery.
Officers allegedly used physical and psychological abuse to coerce 15 year-old Anthony Jakes into signing a false statement that implicated Day in the murder of Garcia. They also harassed a witness named Krona Taylor and pressured her to implicate Day in the murder of Irving.
On February 4, 1992, Day was arrested for the murder of Garcia. The lawsuit describes how officers “entered the room with guns drawn and aimed their firearms.” Day was “lying face down underneath the bed and dressed only in boxer shorts.” Officers flipped the bed and kicked Day in the head.
Day was brought to an interrogation room at Area 3, where Burge was commander until 1992. He was accused of committing the Garcia and Irving murders. They claimed to have witnesses who could testify against him. But Day maintained his innocence.
“During this time, Mr. Day was chained to a wall and deprived of food, water, access to a bathroom, access to counsel, and the ability to contact a family member,” the complaint declares.
Assistant State Attorney Jason Danielian was brought in to the interrogation room after they falsely informed Danielian that they had a suspect with “knowledge of a murder.” Questioned by Danielian, Day said he “did not know anything about a murder.”
Danielian left the interrogation room, and the officers allegedly “grabbed Mr. Day by the neck. Mr. Day’s wrist was still handcuffed to a ring attached to the wall. The Officer Defendants slammed Mr. Day against the wall and began choking Mr. Day.”
“As the Officer Defendants choked Mr. Day, the Officer Defendants continued to threaten Mr. Day, including stating they would throw Mr. Day out the window if he did not start ‘cooperating’ by parroting back their fabricated stories and falsely confessing.”
Several officers allegedly stood silently and watched this alleged abuse. Day feared for his life and eventually agreed to confess to the murders. He repeated information the officers had told him about the murders and falsely confessed to being responsible.
While a jury acquitted Day of the murder of Garcia in 1993, in January 1994, Day was convicted and sentenced to 60 years for first-degree murder and 15 years for armed robbery.
Zero eyewitnesses were called during the trial. Officers never turned over any information on the “unlawful manner with which the officer defendants’ conducted witness interviews.”
“In 2019,” according to the complaint, the FBI and the Justice Department conceded Burge was aware on “numerous occasions” that detectives he supervised participated in “torture and physical abuse of persons” who were interrogated.
One of the people specifically accused of torture and abuse, Kenneth Boudreau, has quite a record of violence that is outlined in the complaint.
Marcus Wiggins was a 13 year-old when he was arrested and allegedly shocked and beaten by Burge detectives. He sued Boudreau and alleged that Bourdreau “handcuffed him to a wall and beat him in an interrogation room while questioning him and other youth in a 1991 murder case.” (The city paid Wiggins a settlement of $95,000 in 1996.)
“In 1991, Boudreau and others electroshocked Damari Clemon, beat him, and threatened him with a pistol.”
Clayborn Smith was interrogated for 37 hours over a murder he did not commit. As he insisted he was innocent, he was punched and kicked. Boudreau and others threatened to charge his pregnant girlfriend with a crime if he did not confess to the murder. They brought in the Assistant State’s Attorney to take down his confession, but he refused. The officers beat him some more, and due to sleep deprivation, he eventually signed a false confession.
There are more than twenty other similar examples in the complaint. Some involve abusing children with low IQs, who had no idea what they were doing when they falsely confessed to crimes.
However, to show this kind of violence did not end when Burge left his position as a police commander, in 1998, “Boudreau and others held Joseph Jackson in an interrogation room in connection with a murder investigation. When Jackson refused to confess, Boudreau and another detective placed a book on his chest and stomach and hit the book with a blackjack to avoid leaving visible marks on Jackson’s body.”
“Boudreau and the detective also put a typewriter cover over Jackson’s head and cut off his air supply. Jackson eventually confessed to a murder he did not commit,” according to the complaint.
Burge and his “Midnight Crew” tortured dozens of black men. They were known to sometimes use a cattle prod and a hand-cranked generator during interrogations.
The city of Chicago has paid at least $83 million in settlements related to torture cases. In 2013, it paid $10.2 million each to Alton Logan and Eric Caine, who alleged they survived torture committed by Burge and his crew.
Chicago police torture survivor James Gibson, who was wrongly incarcerated for 30 years, sued the city of Chicago in May of this year. He was released in April after an appellate court ruled he was entitled to a new trial, and his “incriminating statement” to Area 3 detectives, “the product of police torture,” could not be used to prove his guilt.
Despite mountains of evidence, special prosecutors refused to recommend charges against Burge and other officers. Burge was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison for lying about torture, but he was allowed to keep his pension.
It was not until 2015 that the Chicago City Council took meaningful action and passed an ordinance to offer reparations to torture survivors.