Jon Graham Burge (born December 20, 1947) is a convicted felon and former Chicago Police Department detective and commander who gained notoriety for torturing more than 200 criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991 in order to force confessions. A decorated United States Army veteran, Burge served tours in South Korea and Vietnam and continued as an enlisted United States Army Reserve soldier where he served in the military police. When he returned to the South Side of Chicago, he began his career as a police officer, achieving the rank of commander. Beginning in the 1970s, allegations were made that Burge and those under his command used physical assault and torture to coerce confessions. Eventually, hundreds of similar claims were made.
Following the shooting of several Chicago law enforcement officials in 1982 the police secured a number of confessions that contributed to convictions of two suspects. One filed a civil suit in 1989 against Burge, other officers and the city for police torture and cover-up; Burge was not found liable in 1989 because of a hung jury. Following an internal investigation, Burge was suspended from the Chicago Police Department in 1991 and fired in 1993 after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had used torture against suspects.
After Burge was fired, demands increased to investigate the convictions for which suspects had confessed and he had provided evidence. In 2002 a four-year review, revealed numerous indictable crimes and other improprieties, but no indictment was made against Burge or his men as the statute of limitations for the crimes had expired. Based on the evidence from the investigation and its report, convictions of several inmates were reversed, remanded, or overturned. In 2003 Governor George Ryan pardoned four of Burge's victims on death row whose convictions were based on coerced confessions. He also commuted the sentences of the remaining 167 inmates on death row, to life in prison. Following a civil suit a $19.8 million settlement was reached in December 2007.
In 2008, the United States Attorney for Northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, had Burge arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to testimony in a 1989 civil suit against him for damages for alleged torture. Burge was convicted on all counts on June 28, 2010. He was sentenced to four-and-one-half years in federal prison on January 21, 2011, and was released in October 2014. In 2009 the state passed a law authorizing the Illinois Torture Inquiry Relief Commission, to investigate cases related to convictions of people claiming to have been tortured by Burge and his officers and given coerced confessions. It started to receive cases in 2011. Seventeen cases have been referred to the circuit court and three men freed by April 2016. Another 130 similar cases of torture by Chicago police have been claimed, beyond the scope of Burge and his cohort. In 2015 the City of Chicago announced that it has established a $5.5 million fund for reparations to victims of torture by Burge, and to aid their families. By that time, the city had paid more than $57 million to victims of Burge and his cohort, and another $50 million for defense of the officers.
Raised in the community area of South Deering on the Southeast Side of Chicago, Burge was the second eldest son of Floyd and Ethel Burge. Floyd was a blue collar worker of Norwegian descent and Ethel was an aspiring fashion writer of mixed Western European descent. Burge attended Bowen High School where he showed a keen interest in the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC). There he was exposed to military drill, weapons, leadership and military history. He attended the University of Missouri but dropped out after one semester, which ended his draft deferment. He returned to Chicago to work as a stock clerk in the Jewel supermarket chain in 1966.
In June 1966, Burge enlisted in the army reserve and began six years of service, including two years of active duty. He spent eight weeks at a military police (MP) school in Georgia. He also received some training at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he learned interrogation techniques. He volunteered for a tour of duty in the Vietnam War, but instead was assigned as an MP trainer. He served as an MP in South Korea, gathering five letters of appreciation from superiors. On June 18, 1968, Burge volunteered for duty in Vietnam a second time, and was assigned to the Ninth Military Police Company of the Ninth Infantry Division. He reported to division headquarters, where he was assigned to provide security as a sergeant at his division base camp, which was named Đồng Tâm by William Westmoreland. Burge described his military police service as time spent escorting convoys, providing security for forward support bases, supervising security for the divisional central base camp in Dong Tam, and serving a tour as a provost marshal investigator.
During his military service, Burge earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Army Commendation Medals for valor, for pulling wounded men to safety while under fire. Burge claimed no knowledge of or involvement in prisoner interrogation, brutality or torture in Vietnam. Burge was honorably discharged from the Army on August 25, 1969.
Burge became a police officer in March 1970 at age 22 on the South Side of Chicago. In 20 years of service, he earned 13 commendations and a letter of praise from the Department of Justice. In May 1972, he was promoted to detective and assigned to Area 2 (Pullman Area) Robbery. He was later promoted to field lieutenant in the Monroe Street District.
From 1981–1986 he served as the commander of the Area 2 Violent Crimes Unit until he was promoted to commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit in 1986. In 1988, Burge became Area 3 (Brighton Park) detective commander.
Response to 1982 police shootings
According to The Guardian, federal prosecutors stated that Burge's use of torture began in 1972. But the most prominent events related to his abuses occurred in winter 1982. In February 1982, there were several shootings of law enforcement officers on Chicago's South Side: two Cook County Sheriff's Officers were wounded and a rookie Chicago police officer was shot and killed on a CTA bus on February 5.) On February 9, 1982, a suspect on the street grabbed a police officer's weapon, and shot and killed both the officer and his partner. This last incident occurred within Burge's jurisdiction; he was a lieutenant and commanding officer of Area 2.
Burge was eager to catch those responsible and launched a wide effort to pick up suspects and arrest them. Initial interrogation procedures allegedly included shooting pets of suspects, handcuffing subjects to stationary objects for entire days, and holding guns to the heads of minors. Jesse Jackson, Operation PUSH spokesman; the Chicago Defender; and black Chicago Police officers were outraged. Renault Robinson, president of Chicago's Afro American Police League characterized the dragnet operation as "sloppy police work, a matter of racism," comparing the police action to that of a southern sheriff leading a posse that turned into a lynch mob. Jackson complained that the black community was being held under martial law. The police captured suspects for the killings on February 9 through identification by other suspects. Tyrone Sims identified Donald "Kojak" White as the shooter, and Kojak was linked to Andrew and Jackie Wilson by having committed a burglary with them earlier on the day of the killings.
Andrew Wilson was arrested on the morning of February 14, 1982 for the murder of the last two police officers. By the end of the day, he was taken by police and admitted to Mercy Hospital and Medical Center with lacerations on various parts of his head, including his face, chest bruises and second-degree thigh burns. More than a dozen of the injuries were documented as caused while Wilson was in police custody. Both Andrew Wilson and his brother Jackie confessed to involvement in the February 9 fatal shootings of the police officers. A medical officer who saw Andrew Wilson sent a memo to Richard M. Daley, then Cook County State's Attorney, asking for his case to be investigated on suspicion of police brutality. This never took place.
During a two-week trial in 1983, Andrew Wilson was convicted of the killings and given a death penalty sentence. His brother, Jackie, was convicted as an accomplice and given a life sentence. Both appealed their convictions. In 1985, Jackie's conviction was overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court because his right to remain silent had not been properly explained by the police.
Because Andrew Wilson was given a death sentence, his case was not reviewable on the same grounds by the Appellate Court, and it went directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. In April 1987, the Supreme Court overturned Andrew's conviction with a ruling that his confession had been coerced involuntarily from him while under duress. It ordered a new trial.
In October 1987, the appellate court further ruled that Jackie Wilson should have been tried separately from his brother. He was convicted as an accomplice at his second trial.
The court also ruled that evidence against Andrew Wilson, regarding other matters for which the police wanted him, was incorrectly admitted at his trial on murder charges. His case was remanded to the lower court for retrial. Andrew Wilson was convicted at his second trial in June 1988. But, after five days of deliberation, the jury was unable to agree on Wilson's eligibility for the death penalty; ten women were in favor of imposing this sentence and two men opposed it. The following month Andrew Wilson was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Wilson's civil suit against officers and city
In 1989, seven years after his arrest in 1982, Andrew Wilson filed a civil suit against four detectives (including Burge), a former police superintendent, and the City of Chicago. He said that he had been beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag, burned (by cigarette and radiator), and treated with electric shock by police officers when interrogated about the February 1982 murders; he also had been the victim of the pattern of a police and city cover-up.
Jury selection for the civil trial began on February 15, 1989. The original six-person jury (as was customary for civil trials in Illinois) consisted of two women and four men. By ethnicity it was made up of three African Americans, one Latino, and two whites.
When Burge took the stand on March 13, 1989, he denied that he injured Andrew Wilson during questioning and denied any knowledge of any such activity by other officers. Wilson's legal team, led by G. Flint Taylor of the People's Law Office, received anonymous letters during the trial from a person claiming to be an officer who worked with Burge. This person alleged that the Wilson case was part of a larger pattern of police torture of African-American suspects, which was sanctioned by Burge. U.S. District Judge Brian Barnett Duff did not permit the jury to hear this anonymous evidence.
Gradually, the cases of the other officers named in Wilson's suit were resolved. On March 15, 1989, Sergeant Thomas McKenna was acquitted of brutality; and on March 30, 1989, detectives John Yucaitis and Patrick O'Hara were each acquitted of charges by a unanimous jury. But, the jury was at an impasse on the Burge verdict.
Judge Duff ordered a retrial for Burge, former Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek, and the City of Chicago on two other outstanding charges (conspiracy and whether the City of Chicago's policy toward police brutality contributed to Wilson's injuries). Burge was acquitted of these charges in a second trial, which began on June 9, 1989, and lasted nine weeks.
The verdict in the civil case had three points: 2) jurors found that the City of Chicago employed a policy of using excessive force on suspected killers of police officers, but 3) Wilson had not been tortured.
Increasing reports of torture and new civil suits
The first lengthy report of torture by the Chicago police was published beginning in January 1990 in the alternative weekly Chicago Reader. Through that year, as additional material was published by the Chicago Tribune, civil activists and victims of Burge pushed for disciplinary action against the officer.
Danny K. Davis running for Chicago mayor in the Democratic primary scheduled for February 26, 1991, made police brutality and excessive force an issue in the campaign. He sought an independent citizens' review of the police department. On January 28, 1991, Amnesty International called for an investigation into police torture in Chicago. After Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley seemed reluctant to initiate an investigation, his opponent Davis questioned whether there was a police and city coverup. Eventually, after pressure by citizens' organizations and anti-brutality organizations, the police department resumed an internal investigation.
In 1991, Gregory Banks, a convicted felon, filed a civil suit for $16 million in damages against Burge, three colleagues, and the City of Chicago for condoning brutality and torture. He said that he had falsely confessed in 1983 to murder after he was tortured by officers: they placed a plastic bag over his head, put a gun in his mouth, and performed other acts. He said that the officers allegedly abused eleven other suspects, using such measures as electro-shock. The suit was brought by the People's Law Office attorneys who had represented Andrew Wilson in the 1989 police brutality case. The suit described 23 incidents against black and Hispanic suspects between 1972–1985. The Bank's suit named Sergeant Peter Dignan as one of the officers involved in the abuses. In 1995 Dignan was promoted for meritorious service, even though the City of Chicago had settled out of court with Banks on his suit.
In 1993 Marcus Wiggins filed a third suit against Burge and the city, saying that he had been subjected at the age of 13 to electric shock during interrogation and forced into a coerced confession.
In November 1991, the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards (OPS), the internal afffairs division that investigates complaints of police misconduct, acknowledged an October 25, 1991 request for action against Burge. This was a common precursor to a police dismissal and gave the City of Chicago's Corporation counsel 30 days to consider the report. Burge was suspended for 30 days pending separation, starting on November 8, 1991. The Chicago Police Board set a November 25 hearing to formalize the firing of Burge and two detectives based on 30 counts of abuse and brutality against Wilson. The hearing reviewed the internal police investigation finding that Burge and Detective John Yucaitis had physically abused Andrew Wilson in 1982, while Detective Patrick O'Hara did nothing to stop them.
The suspension attracted controversy after the 30-day period ended, and the officers remained suspended without pay. They sued for reinstatement, but their reinstatements were denied. During the hearing, an internal report, which had been suppressed for years, revealed earlier police review findings that criminal suspects were subjected to systematic brutality at the Area 2 detective headquarters for 12 years and that supervisory commanders had knowledge of the abuses. During the February 1992 hearings, several alleged victims testified against Burge.
The internal hearing concluded in March 1992, and the Chicago Police Board found Burge guilty of "physically abusing" an accused murderer 11 years earlier; it ordered his firing from the police force on February 10, 1993.
Detectives John Yucaitis and Patrick O'Hara were given 15-month suspensions without pay and reinstated, which amounted to a penalty equal to time served. Upon reinstatement the two detectives were initially demoted, but about one year later, they were reinstated at full-rank with backpay for time served while demoted.
Burge attempted to have the ruling overturned, but the suspension and subsequent firing were upheld.
Due to the internal hearing, the City of Chicago was simultaneously paying lawyers to defend Burge during an appeal by Wilson and a new civil case by Banks, while employing lawyers to prosecute him on departmental charges. The City of Chicago hired outside counsel to prosecute the detectives at the internal hearing. After having spent $750,000 to defend Burge in the Wilson case, the City of Chicago questioned whether to follow normal practices and pay for the defense of its police officers.
In 1993, Andrew Wilson was granted a new judicial hearing in his civil case against Burge by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling was based on the fact that during the 1989 civil suit, the officers' defense had worked to "immerse the jury in the sordid details of Wilson's crimes." It did not respond to a suspect's "right to be free from torture and the correlative right to present his claim of torture to a jury that has not been whipped into a frenzy of hatred".
An investigation conducted by Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards (OPS) concluded in 1994 that Jon Burge and his detectives engaged in "methodical" and "systematic" torture, and "The type of abuse described was not limited to the usual beating, but went into such esoteric areas as psychological techniques and planned torture."
Abuse-related legal decisions
As more information about Burge's reign was published, activists worked to save some Chicago inmates on death row who claimed to have been wrongfully convicted. In 1998, representatives from the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, the London-based International Center for Criminal Law and Human Rights, law professor Anthony Amsterdam, former federal judges George N. Leighton and Abner Mikva, Illinois judge R. Eugene Pincham, and British activist Bianca Jagger, called for a stay of execution for Aaron Patterson, a death row inmate from Chicago. His conviction for murder was based primarily on a confession which he claimed was coerced by torture from Burge and his officers.
In 1999, lawyers for several death row inmates began to call for a special review of convictions that were based on evidence and confessions extracted by Burge and his colleagues. These inmates: Aaron Patterson; Madison Hobley; Stanley Howard; Leonard Kidd; Derrick King; Ronald Kitchen; Reginald Mahaffey; Jerry Mahaffey; Andrew Maxwell, and Leroy Orange, became known as the "Death Row 10".
In the Goldston Report (1990), the City of Chicago enumerated 50 alleged instances of police brutality and abuse by Burge and other officers. The City of Chicago had struggled for decades with the issue of coerced confessions; in the 1990s it quietly reopened several controversial brutality cases. Despite an extensive investigation into the actions by a number of police employees, few others but Burge were sanctioned.
Several politicians, including US Representative Bobby Rush, requested that State's Attorney Richard A. Devine seek new trials for the Death Row 10 who were allegedly tortured by Burge into making coerced confessions. Devine met with representatives and supporters of the inmates and was convinced to request that the Illinois Supreme Court stay proceedings against three of the inmates. However, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Devine's request. Rush also sought out Attorney General Janet Reno to pursue federal intervention.
In February 1999, David Protess, a Northwestern University journalism professor, and his students were studying cases of people on death row. They discovered evidence related to Death Row inmate Anthony Porter that might help exonerate him. The students produced four affidavits and a videotaped statement that attributed guilt for the crime to another suspect. They obtained recantations by some witnesses of their testimony at trial. One witness claimed that he named Anthony Porter as a suspect only after police officers threatened, harassed and intimidated him into doing so.
In 2000, Governor Ryan placed a moratorium on executions in Illinois after courts exonerated and freed 13 death row inmates who had been wrongfully convicted. Ryan also promised to review the cases of all Illinois death row inmates. Given the number of cases of alleged brutality to be investigated, inmates who claimed to have been abused and gave coerced confessions were offered reduced sentences in exchange for dropping charges. A plea agreement was reached with one convicted victim. Illinois State's Attorney Devine made a broader offer to several inmates. Aaron Patterson rejected the plea deal.
On January 11, 2003, having lost confidence in the state's death penalty system, outgoing Republican Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 prisoners on Illinois’ death row. He granted clemency by converting their death sentences to sentences of life without parole in most cases, while reducing some sentences.
In addition, Ryan had already pardoned four death row inmates: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard, who were among the ten who claimed they were coerced into confessing by Burge and his officers and had been wrongfully convicted. In the unusual proceeding, the governor took the extraordinary step of a direct pardon release rather than a court proceeding.
Daley, at the time the Cook County State's Attorney, has been accused by the Illinois General Assembly of failing to act on information he possessed on the conduct of Burge and others. Daley has acknowledged his responsibility to be proactive in stopping torture, but denies any knowledge which could have made him responsible. On July 19, 2006, US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. issued a press release calling Mayor Daley culpable, possibly even criminally culpable, for his failure to prosecute until the statute of limitations had run out. Jackson called for an investigation to determine if there was any planned delay in order to allow the cases to expire. Death penalty opponents requested that U.S. President Bill Clinton follow Ryan's lead in halting executions.
In August 2000, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed or remanded two Burge-related death row cases based on allegations of torture by police. The court ruled that the inmates should have new hearings.
Civil suits by pardoned men
After being pardoned by Governor Ryan, Burge's victims from death row began to file lawsuits against the city and its officers. Madison Hobley was the first of the four pardoned inmates to file suit in May 2003. Aaron Patterson followed in June with a suit, and Stanley Howard filed suit in November 2003. LeRoy Orange also filed suit.
The four men filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the City of Chicago, Burge, several of Burge's former subordinate police detectives, Cook County, and a few current and former State's Attorneys and assistant state's attorneys of Cook County (the precise list of police officers and prosecutors varied somewhat from plaintiff to plaintiff). Although each case was randomly assigned to a different district judge, the parties all consented to have the four cases consolidated for discovery management before Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown. In December 2007, a settlement of $19.8 million was reached between the plaintiffs and the so-called "city defendants," consisting of the City of Chicago, Burge, the other former detectives, and former Cook County State's Attorney (and Mayor of Chicago at the time of the settlement) Richard M. Daley. The cases against Cook County and the other current/former prosecutors continue as of July 2008.
The Chicago Police Department had conducted an investigation of Burge through its Office of Professional Standards (OPS). Known as the Goldston Report (September 28, 1990) for its lead investigator, this internal report determined that "the preponderance of evidence is that abuse did occur and that it was systematic." The report "listed the names of fifty alleged victims of torture and brutality, the names of detectives who had been involved, and stated: 'Particular command members were aware of the systematic abuse and perpetuated it either by actively participating in same or failing to take any action to bring it to an end'." The 1990 report was never publicly released, as it was customary to keep such internal investigations private unless and until prosecution took place. But it was the basis of the process of the Police Department's suspension, hearing and firing of Burge in 1991–1993.
In 2002, the Cook County Bar Association, the Justice Coalition of Chicago and others petitioned for a review of the allegations against Burge. Edward Egan, a former prosecutor, Illinois Appellate Court jurist, and semiretired lawyer who lived in Florida, was appointed as a Special State's Attorney ("special prosecutor") to investigate allegations dating back to 1973. He hired an assistant, several lawyers, and retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. Former prosecutor Robert D. Boyle was also appointed as a special prosecutor. In 2003, former Chief of the Special Prosecution Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Gordon B. Nash Jr., was appointed as an additional special prosecutor.
A total of 60 cases were ordered to be reviewed. A special prosecutor was hired because Cook County State's Attorney, Richard Devine, had a conflict of interest stemming from his tenure at the law firm of Phelan, Pope & John, which had defended Burge in two federal suits. Criminal Courts Judge Paul P. Biebel Jr. presided over the determination of the need of a review to determine the propriety of criminal charges and the appointment of the special prosecutor.
During the written phase of the investigation, Burge and eight other officers pleaded the Fifth Amendment. On September 1, 2004, Burge was served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in an ongoing criminal investigation of police torture while in town for depositions on civil lawsuits at his attorney's office. Burge pleaded the Fifth Amendment to virtually every question during a 4-hour civil case deposition. He answered only questions about his name, his boat's name (Vigilante), and his $30,000 annual pension. The City of Chicago continues to be bound by court order to pay for Burge's legal fees. Eventually, three police officers were granted immunity in order to further the investigation into Burge.
Three years into the investigation, no criminal charges had been filed. During this period, pardoned inmates and others still in prison had filed several civil suits against Burge and the city in federal court. By that time, a total of 139 victims of abuse were involved in the case, as well as 19 investigators. Disappointment on the city's progress prompted the torture victims to request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to allot them an hour-long hearing at their October 2005 session.
On May 19, 2006 the court ruled that the city had to release the special report on torture accusations, as there was a compelling public interest in the material. Previous police investigations had not been publicly released. On June 20, 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court unblocked the release of the special report by Egan, which took 4 years and cost $17 million. In the end the group evaluated 148 cases. The investigation revealed that in three of the cases, prosecutors could have proved, beyond a reasonable doubt in court, that torture by the police had occurred; five former officers including Burge were involved. Half of the claims were deemed credible, but because the timing of the cases exceeded the statute of limitations for police abuse of suspects, no indictments were made.
Mayor Daley and all law enforcement officials who had been deposed were excluded from the report. Also, the 75 credible abuse cases were overlooked; the report focused on doubts about the torture of the four pardoned death row inmates. Among the final costs were $6.2 million for the investigation and $7 million to hire outside counsel for Burge and his cohort. Many activists were disappointed to learn that the statute of limitations meant that Burge would not be prosecuted for torture. Debates in the op-ed pages continued for days. Egan explained his report to the public with legal theories and federal jurisdiction issues.
On the same day that the court ruled to release the special report, the 36th session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture issued its "Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture" report of the United States. The document states,
"The Committee is concerned at allegations of impunity of some of the State party's law-enforcement personnel in respect of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee notes the limited investigation and lack of prosecution in respect of the allegations of torture perpetrated in areas 2 and 3 of the Chicago Police Department (art. 12). The State party should promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law-enforcement personnel and bring perpetrators to justice, in order to fulfil its obligations under article 12 of the Convention. The State party should also provide the Committee with information on the ongoing investigations and prosecution relating to the above-mentioned case."
Burge in Florida
Burge continues to receive a police pension, to which he is entitled under Illinois state law.
After being fired, Burge moved to Apollo Beach, Florida, a suburb of Tampa. In 1994, he bought his current wood-frame home for $154,000 and a 22 ft (6.7 m) motorboat. While a police officer, Burge had owned a 40-foot (12 m) cabin cruiser named The Vigilante, which he maintained at Burnham Harbor. Upon retiring at full pension, he ran a fishing business in Florida. The precise amount of his pension is not a matter of public record, but he was eligible for 50% of his approximately $60,000 salary.
Aftermath: legal changes
In response to the revelations of torture by Chicago police, the state legislature began to consider a bill in 1999 mandating the videotaping of interrogations in homicide cases. State senator Barack Obama pushed the mandated video recording bill through the Illinois State Senate in 2003. It was put into effect in 2005, after interrogation rooms had been outfitted and training of officers had been done.
There were numerous legislative reforms passed in 2003 that were related to improving use of the death penalty and preventing wrongful convictions. After Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed some provisions, the state house voted unanimously 115-0 to pass the package, overriding his veto. Reforms included giving the "Illinois Supreme Court greater power to throw out unjust verdicts, gives defendants more access to evidence, and bars the death penalty in cases based on a single witness. The reforms are among the 80 recommendations made by the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment, formed in 2000 by former Governor George Ryan to address wrongful convictions and the state's broken death penalty system."
Although Burge had been presumed to be protected by a statute of limitations, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, in October 2008 charged Burge with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. Burge was arrested on October 21, 2008 at his home in Apollo Beach by FBI agents.
Under the charges, Burge could have been subject to 40 years in prison for the two obstruction counts and five years on the perjury count. The charges were the result of convicted felon Madison Hobley's 2003 civil rights lawsuit alleging police beatings, electric shocks and death threats by Burge and other officers against dozens of criminal suspects.
Burge pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bond. Fitzgerald noted that although Burge was being charged with lying, and not the torture to which the statute of limitations applied, he believed Burge to be guilty of both. In the October 21 press conference, Fitzgerald stated that Burge had "lied and impeded court proceedings" during his 2003 written testimony. In the indictment, the prosecution stated that Burge understood that he was a participant in and was aware of "such events involving the abuse or torture of people in custody". The trial was set for May 11, 2009. Instead, on April 29, Burge filed a change-of-venue motion, in relation to the lawsuit filed by former Death Row inmate Madison Hobley, and Burge's trial was set for October 29, 2009.
Also in April, Cortez Brown, an inmate who had sought a new trial with respect to his conviction in two 1990 murders, to which he said he had confessed under physical coercion, had already subpoenaed two Chicago police detectives for his May 18, 2009 hearing. He won the right from a Cook County judge to subpoena Burge. Burge was expected to exercise his 5th Amendment right not to incriminate himself. The Florida judge refused to grant the subpoena, given the likelihood that Burge would exercise his 5th amendment right.
On May 6, jury selection began for the Burge trial for perjury and obstruction of justice. 80 potential jurors were given a 29-page questionnaire to complete. Attorneys had until May 24 to review the questionnaires before final jury selection began. An additional batch of 90 potential jurors was given a questionnaire on May 17. The trial heard its first testimony on May 26. Burge testified in his own defense for six hours on June 17 and on subsequent days. Closing arguments were heard on June 24, and jury deliberations began on June 25. On June 28, Burge was convicted on all three counts: two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.
On January 21, 2011, Burge was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, who had refused to withdraw from the case. The federal probation office had recommended a 15- to 21-month sentence, while prosecutors had requested as much as 30 years. Burge served his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution Butner Low near Butner, North Carolina. Burge's projected release date was February 14, 2015; he was released from prison on October 3, 2014.
There are plans to file federal civil lawsuits against Burge, Daley and others.
City costs for police misconduct
In April 2014, the Better Government Association, a non-partisan watchdog group, reported that the city of Chicago had spent more than $521.3 million in the previous decade on lawsuit settlements, judgments, and legal fees for defenses related to police misconduct. In 2013, the most expensive year, it paid more than $83.6 million.
The city paid a total of $391.5 million in settlements and judgments.
More than a quarter, or $110.3 million, was related to 24 wrongful-conviction lawsuits. A dozen of those 24 involved now-imprisoned [as of April 2014] former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge, whose detectives were accused of torturing confessions out of mostly black male suspects over many years. Overall, the city has paid alleged victims of Burge detectives more than $57 million, records show.
Torture Inquiry Relief Commission
In 2009 the state legislature passed a bill authorizing creation of the Illinois Torture Inquiry Relief Commission (TIRC) to investigate cases of people "in which police torture might have resulted in wrongful convictions." In some cases, allegedly coerced confessions were the only evidence leading to convictions. Its scope is limited to people tortured by Burge or by other officers under his authority, as made explicit in the law and by an appellate court review in March 2016. That month, the court also ruled that the TIRC does have jurisdiction in cases of detectives who once served under Burge, even if the claim was for a later incident.
Beginning work in 2011, the TIRC has referred 17 cases to the circuit court for judicial review for potential relief. Three convicts have been freed based on review of their cases. Individuals may initiate claims to the commission. As of April 2016, another 130 cases have been heard of torture that was not committed by Burge or his subordinates. The city and state are struggling to determine how to treat this high number of torture victims in a just way. The sponsors of the bill tried to amend it in 2014 to expand its scope to all claims of torture by police in Chicago, but were unable to get support in the state house. They will try again.
Culture of violence
In 2011 the Cook County State's Attorney, Anita Alvarez, compelled the Office of Conviction Integrity to review cases of convictions dependent on evidence from homicide detective Richard Zuley of the Chicago Police Department. In 2013, Lathierial Boyd, a man whose conviction was dependent on Zuley's evidence, won exoneration and freedom after 23 years in prison due to wrongful conviction; it was found that Zuley had suppressed exculpatory evidence. Reviews of other cases by Zuley were underway. Several civil suits were filed against Zuley, by Bond and by current inmates, who alleged they were convicted based on his framing or coerced confessions.
Discussing the larger culture of violence that Chicago police had created, journalist Spencer Ackerman in February 2015 reported that Zuley, by then retired from COPD, had served in 2003–2004 with the US Navy Reserve as an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, established by the George W. Bush administration. (Zuley had returned to the CPD after his Navy service.) In 2003, one of his subjects was the high-profile detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi, for whom the Secretary of Defense had authorized extended interrogation techniques, since classified as torture. Slahi's memoir, Guantanamo Diary, was published in January 2015, and quickly became an international bestseller. He detailed the torture he suffered. Ackerman noted that inmates with claims or suits against Zuley had recounted details that are similar to the physical and psychological abuse against Slahi. Local Chicago publications identified Zuley as a protege of Burge, but Ackerman said that the two officers never served together. Zuley primarily served on the North Side.
On April 14, 2015, the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, announced the creation of a $5.5 million city fund for individuals who could prove that they were victimized by Burge. When this fund was first proposed by aldermen in 2013, they suggested that it should be established for $20 million.
Burge broke his silence to say he found it hard to believe that Chicago political leadership could "even contemplate giving reparations to human vermin". The fund was approved by the Chicago City Council on May 6, 2015.
In approving the reparations, Chicago became the first municipal government to approve compensating victims who have valid claims of police torture. Under the terms, about 60 living victims would each be eligible to receive up to $100,000. The living survivors and their immediate families, and the immediate families of the deceased torture victims, would also be given access to services, including psychological counseling and free tuition to the City Colleges of Chicago. Additionally, the city approved building a public memorial to the deceased victims and established a requirement that students in the eighth and tenth grades attending Chicago Public Schools learn about the Burge legacy.
At the May Council meeting, as more than a dozen Burge survivors looked on, Mayor Emanuel offered an official apology on behalf of the City of Chicago, and the aldermen stood and applauded. G. Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People's Law Office and part of the legal team that negotiated the deal, said in an interview that the "non-financial reparations make it truly historic." Taylor predicted that the reparations will be a "beacon for other cities here and across the world for dealing with racist police brutality."
Representation in other media
The Burge case has been chronicled in various formats in the mass media.
- The book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People (2001, ISBN 0-520-23039-6) by John Conroy, a reporter for the Chicago Reader who covered the events, includes four chapters on Burge's story.
- The 1994 Public Broadcasting Service documentary film, entitled The End of the Nightstick and co-produced with Peter Kuttner, analyzed the torture charges against Burge.
- The television show Untouchable: Power Corrupts (2015)