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Ex-Chicago officer convicted of perjury in torture trial

Flint Taylor, lawyer for alleged victims of police torture, spoke to reporters in Chicago after Jon Burge was convicted. Flint Taylor, lawyer for alleged victims of police torture, spoke to reporters in Chicago after Jon Burge was convicted. (Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press)
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 29, 2010

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CHICAGO — A decorated former Chicago police lieutenant accused of suffocating, shocking, and beating confessions out of scores of suspects was convicted yesterday of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the alleged torture of suspects.

Jurors deliberated for parts of three days before finding Jon Burge guilty. Burge faces 45 years in prison.

Burge’s name has become synonymous with police brutality and abuse of power in the country’s third-largest city. For decades, dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — contended that Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.

Former governor George Ryan of Illinois released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Ryan said Burge had extracted confessions from them using torture.

The allegations of torture and coerced confessions eventually led to a still-standing moratorium on Illinois’s death penalty and the emptying of death row — moves credited with re-igniting the global fight against capital punishment.

Burge was fired from the Police Department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect.

In 2006, a special prosecutor’s report found that dozens of men had credible claims of abuse but that the statute of limitations had run out on any relevant crimes. It was not until Burge’s 2008 indictment that any officer was criminally charged in relation to the alleged torture.

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