Jon Burge was promoted to Chicago Police Detective and assigned to Area 2 on the south side of Chicago. Prior to joining the CPD, Burge served as a military police investigator in Vietnam.
African-American men were tortured with electric shock and suffocation in Area 2 by Burge and his men in order to obtain confessions.
Andrew Wilson was arrested for murder and brought to Area 2 where he was repeatedly tortured with electric-shock, suffocation and burning by Burge and detectives under his supervision.
Then Cook County State's Attorney Richard M. Daley was advised that Burge and his men tortured Andrew Wilson. Daley does not initiate a criminal investigation.
Andrew Wilson was examined by Dr. John Raba, Medical Director at Cook County Jail. Dr. Raba sent a letter to Police Superintendent Richard Breczek detailing Wilson's injuries and requesting an investigation.
Over 87 men alleged being tortured at Area 2 in order to obtain confessions. In most of the cases, the State's Attorney's Office was aware of the allegations, but used the coerced statements to convict the torture survivors and send them to prison anyway.
"After the third [torture] session I basically, remember being scared to death and I remember not ever feeling that way before, and I never want to feel that way again. And I wanted to find a way to protect myself from it happening again… I also remember being in the station for a while; I don't know how long. I remember being hungry. I remember being an 18-year-old wanting his momma. I remember not wanting to deal with those detectives who tortured me for those sessions."
"He tried to kill me. It leaves a gnawing, hurting feeling. I can't ever shake it… I still think I shouldn't have let Burge do that to me, but there was nothing I could do. I keep thinking how I can get out of it, but there was nothing I could do. I remember looking around the room at the other officers and I thought one of them would say that was enough and they never did."
The Citizen's Alert, the Task Force to Confront Police Violence and 50 other organizations routinely demonstrated outside the federal courthouse, at Police Headquarters and at City Hall, challenging then Mayor Daley and the Superintendent of the CPD to investigate the torture and ﬁre Burge.
Office Professional Standards completed its investigation and cites 50 cases of torture and abuse at Area 2 under Burge and ﬁnds that this abuse was "systematic", "methodological" and "included psychological techniques and planned torture."
Amnesty International issued a report calling for an inquiry into allegation of police torture in Chicago. Then Mayor Daley responds with "no comment whatsoever."
During proceedings before the Police Board, City lawyers admitted that the evidence of Area 2 torture established "an astounding pattern or plan… to torture certain suspects… into confessing to crimes."
The Chicago Police Board ﬁred Jon Burge and suspended Detective John Yucaitis for 15 months on charges of torturing and physically abusing Andrew Wilson.
Torture survivors on Illinois's death row began to organize, dubbing themselves The Death Row 10. The survivors and family members joined with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and attorneys to mount a commutation campaign.
Governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences and pardoned four, having determined that their confessions were obtained under torture by Burge and his men.
Fed up with local government officials' failure to hold Burge and others accountable and provide reparations to the survivors, Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT) organized a coalition of lawyers, activists and organizations to take the cases to the International Human Rights Arena.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture found that the U.S. government had violated the torture convention and called on them to "bring the perpetrators to justice."
Jon Burge was convicted in federal court for perjury and obstruction of justice based on the fact that he lied under oath in a civil case when he denied he and others committed acts of torture.
Twenty African-American men remain in prison as a result of convictions based in whole or in part upon their coerced confessions. The vast majority of torture survivors have received no financial compensation or psychological counseling for their suffering.
"Three white detectives saying 'N—*, you're gonna tell me what I want to hear.' And when I mumble the words 'no,' one of them would say 'blow that N—*'s head off.' And they pulled the trigger of their shotgun. Now the third time they did that, to show you how the human mind works, the third time they did that the hair on the back of my head stood straight up, as if they had just blown my brains out. But again, faith got me through it."
The facts of the Chicago Police Torture Cases are summarized by People's Law Office attorney Joey Mogul: "In what have become known as the Chicago Police Torture cases, Burge and white detectives working under his command tortured over 110 African American men and women at Chicago police headquarters from 1972 to 1991."
In 2011, Jon Burge was convicted of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow made a lengthy statement at Burge's sentencing hearing, which is transcribed here.
In reaction to a lack of action on the part of the state, a team of volunteer attorneys, researchers, and community activists produced this report. The report 'shadowed' a disappointing report by the Special State's Attorney.
This follow-up to the shadow report of the previous year continued the call for prosecutions in the torture cases despite the federal statute of limitations. This supplement calls for charges of perjury and obstruction – Burge would eventually be convicted on these counts several years later.
This document identifies 111 victims of torture in Area 2 and Area 3. These people were tortured between 1971 and 1991. Some of the people that Burge and his collaborators abused have been very active in raising awareness while others remain nameless, but not forgotten. Also see the article on this site that names the torture survivors.
This document, which predates Burge's conviction, summarizes the scope of Jon Burge's crimes, the expense of covering up his offenses, and the few steps toward justice undertaken by the state.
More than one hundred African-American men were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge or police officers under his command. Some of the people who were tortured have become outspoken advocates for the cause of raising awareness and seeking justice for the survivors and perpetrators. Sadly, some of the victims of torture remain anonymous. This section is a growing collection of information related to particular survivors of Chicago police torture as individuals, but this page will always be incomplete, unable to capture all of the human detail of these people's experiences. There is a very long list of all the documented instances of police torture which names, as far as possible, the person tortured and the police personnel responsible.
Darrell Cannon is one of the most well-known torture survivors who has courageously spoken out about the torture he endured at the hands of Area 2 Detectives and while incarcerated at Tamms Correctional Center, a supermax prison in Illinois.
On November 2, 1983, Cannon alleges he was threatened with a gun, subjected to “Russian” roulette, repeatedly electric shocked on his testicles and penis with a cattle prod, and continuously subjected to racial eptithets by Sergeant John Byrne and Detective Peter Dignan, Burge’s right hand men at Area 2 Police Headquarters . The torture was committed to elicit a confession, and this confession was subsequently used to wrongfully convict Cannon of murder. Cannon subsequently served close to 24 years in prison, 9 years at Tamms, before he was exonerated and released.
Watch Cannon describe his own torture and read his own description of the torture he endured, a document he created within days of his torturous interrogation from a cell at Cook County Jail.
"Madison Hobley was one of 14 African American men sentenced to death based on confessions—alleged or acknowledged—obtained by a group of Chicago police officers later shown to have engaged in systematic torture of suspects in criminal cases.
"Four officers claimed Hobley admitted setting a fire that claimed the lives of his wife, infant son, and five other persons early the morning of January 6, 1987, at an apartment building in the 1100 block of East 82nd Street in Chicago.
"When the fire broke out, Hobley, 26, escaped the flames without shoes and wearing only underwear. He consistently maintained his innocence, alleging that the officers tortured him and—when that failed—fabricated a confession."
Continue reading about Madison Hobley's wrongful conviction at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Anthony Holmes is one of the first known torture survivors. On May 30, 1973, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and Detective John Yucaitis repeatedly electrically shocked Holmes with the electric shock box and suffocated him with plastic bags, while subjecting him to racial epithets and threats. As a result of this torturous interrogation Holmes confessed to a murder he did not commit and was subsequently incarcerated for decades.
Holmes courageously testified against Burge at Burge’s perjury trial in June of 2010 and he was one of five torture survivors the jury heard from before finding that Burge was guilty.
Watch Holmes describe his own torture while testifying at a deposition in June of 2006 and read his testimony from Burge’s sentencing hearing in January of 2011.