Burge trial underway, torture victim speaks from Death Row

By: Kathy Chaney
Chicago Defender
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As potential jurors in former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge’s
perjury case began to be questioned Monday by a federal judge, one of
his alleged victims, Stanley Howard, prayed for a new trial and mercy
for himself.

A special prosecutor ruled four years ago that Burge and several
detectives under his management tortured more than 100 suspects into
confessing to crimes by using electric shock, beatings and other
odious acts between 1972 and 1991 while in custody at either Area 2 or
Area 3.

He was fired from the department in 1993 and indicted in 2008 on
perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying to
special prosecutors during a 2006 investigation by the then-Office of
Professional Standards. The statute of limitations for the alleged
torture had run out. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Many alleged torture victims were convicted of crimes they said they
weren’t involved in. Some had their convictions overturned. Ten were
sentenced to death: Howard, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Ronald
Kitchen, Leroy Orange, Leonard Kidd, Andrew Maxwell, Frank Bounds,
Reginald Mahaffey and Jeffery Mahaffey.

“I was arrested in March 1983 after two Chicago police officers were
murdered. They (Burge detectives) got me to the police station and all
hell broke lose. I never thought I would be sitting in an interview
room in the middle of the night, forced into signing a confession that
sent me to Death Row,” Howard, as he currently sits on Death Row at
Dixon Correctional Center, told the Defender during a phone interview.

Howard wanted to make sure his voice was heard while several dozen
anti-Burge protestors, including his wife, Michelle Martin,
demonstrated outside City Hall on the first day of Burge’s trial.
He was slapped and kicked repeatedly in efforts to get a signed
confession to a crime he said he didn’t commit. When he didn’t sign on
the detectives’ first attempt, a plastic bag was put over his head and
he passed out, he said.

“I came to because one of the guys was smacking me trying to wake me
up. Then another officer kept kicking me in my left shin, every chance
he got,” said Howard, who has been locked up for 26 years.
When that didn’t work, he was taken to the scene of the crime and
“spoon fed” information about the crime, hoping Howard would give in
and confess, he said.

“When they figured out I wasn’t going to confess when the state’s
attorney came, one of the officers uncuffed me and told me to run.
Then another officer pulled out the gun. I knew then they were willing
to kill me to get a confession. They took me back to the police
station and I was being suffocated. It was then that I decided to sign
the confession. I shouldn’t have done it,” said Howard.
Believing in the justice system, he thought he’d get the chance to
tell the real story once he stood before a judge, especially since his
confession was “bullcrap,” he said.

Howard was sorely disappointed.

“I didn’t know that no Cook County judge wasn’t willing to stand up
against that guy (Burge). I was sentenced to Death Row in 1987. I
don’t understand why I’m still here. I need a new trial. I need some
mercy,” he said.

Attorney Flint Taylor, who does not represent Howard but has
represented several other alleged victims, said Burge deserves
treatment that his alleged victims didn’t receive.

“The time has come that (sic) Jon Burge gets the fair trial that the
110 victims didn’t get,” Taylor, of the People’s Law Office, told the
crowd outside City Hall.

Burge’s trial is expected to last at least six weeks. If convicted, he
could face up to 45 years behind bars.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.