“I thought several times I was dead,” Holmes said Oct. 2 during a City Hall press conference for a proposed ordinance that would provide $20 million in compensation to him and more than 100 other Burge victims between 1972 and 1991. The press conference was timed to coincide with Burge’s release from a federal corrections institution after his conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges; he denied the torture committed on his watch at Area 2 and 3 police headquarters.
Many of the victims were exonerated, yet they never received compensation to help them move on with their lives, said Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st ward), a chief sponsor of the ordinance that now has 26 supporters in the 50-member Chicago City Council. The ordinance would create a Chicago Police Torture Reparations Commission that would administer a fixed sum between $50,000 and $100,000 to victims, Moreno said. The proposal would also create:
– A Chicago Public School history curriculum on the Chicago Police torture cases
– A South Side center for psychological counseling, health services and vocational training for torture survivors
– Evidentiary hearings for torture victims behind bars whose coerced convictions resulted in wrongful convictions
– Public memorials to the Chicago Police torture survivors.
The $20 million sum was chosen because the City of Chicago has been “complicit in the torture practices…by expending more than $20 million of taxpayers funds to defend Burge and other implicated detectives,” according to the proposed ordinance. Torture methods cited in the proposal include electrical shocks to the genitals, lips and ears; mock execution with guns; beatings with phone books or rubber hoses.Moreno and Ald. Joe Moore (49th ward) both likened the torture to terrorism. “That’s not how the criminal justice system is supposed to operate,” Moore said. “We’re supposed to be a nation of law. It is time for the City Council to make amends.”
Joey L. Mogul of the People’s Law Office said that only 16 of more than 110 torture victims have received any compensation; the statute of limitations has run out on other lawsuits.
Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office has been collecting Chicago Police torture cases for 28 years. Holmes was responsible for Burge’s conviction, Taylor said, because “he looked his torturer in the eyes and testified against him. The jury believed him rather than Burge, the judge believed him rather than Burge….But now those men, who never got a nickel, should be compensated. They should get the treatment and the medical care that Burge and all the men that tortured them get free of charge.”
Mayoral contender Karen Lewis issued a written statement at the press conference calling the reparations “past due.” She said also that police torture in Chicago African American neighborhoods was “a stain on our city.”
By Suzanne Hanney, StreetWise Editor-in-Chief, and Austin Sanchez, StreetWise Editorial Intern