Meet The Death Row 10: Leonard Kidd

Tortured by Chicago’s finest

By: Joan Parkin

This page has been reserved in recent issues for profiles of the cases of The Death Row 10, a group of men who were beaten and tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives and sent to death row in Illinois.

In the summer of 1998, the Death Row 10 came together inside prison and asked the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to be their voice on the outside. In January 2003, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan pardoned four members of the Death Row 10. The Campaign is continuing the struggle to win justice for those who remain behind bars.

Leonard Kidd suffered a night of horror in a police interrogation room in Chicago that defies imagination. Chained to a ring on a wall, beaten and electro-shocked by a torture ring of highly decorated detectives, he only confessed in order to end the nightmarish ordeal. Nonetheless, Leonard has remained in prison for the past 20 years, 19 of them on death row.

Last January, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted Leonard’s death sentence–along with more than 160 who made up the rest of Illinois death row. And Ryan gave full pardons to four men on death row, all four of whom, like Leonard, were part of the Death Row 10. One of the pardoned was Leonard’s brother and co-defendant, Leroy Orange, who suffered the same torture at the hands of the same detectives as Leonard did.

Though Leonard is no longer on death row, he still faces life in prison without parole–an outrage given that he should be granted a new trial since he “confessed” to the crime after hours of torture. While his brother Leroy has traveled around the U.S. and to Europe to speak about the torture since his pardon, Leonard’s confession–extracted by the same police commander–stands as the most damning piece of evidence against him.

On the night of January 12, 1984, Leonard was picked up and taken to Area 2 police headquarters and tortured with an electric generator. Detectives told him that they weren’t playing with his “black ass,” and one of them hit him in the groin while he was handcuffed to a pole. They demanded his confession.

When Leonard continued to deny his involvement, Burge gave an officer a black bag to suffocate Leonard. Leonard thought he was going to die. This was one of Burge’s favorite torture methods–all four of the pardoned were suffocated. One of the detectives again asked him to confess, and Leonard again said, “No.”

Then the police pulled his pants down and, after an intense struggle, connected something to Leonard’s penis. When he finally got in
a position to check out what was happening, he could see wires running from his penis to a black box. He was electrically shocked with this thing a few times. He was screaming, trying to get up after each time he was shocked. He had the feeling they were about to kill him.

Today, we know that Leonard is one of more than 90 Black and Latino men tortured by this same police gang.

Until 1993, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives used torture methods familiar to any war crimes tribunal to target Black men from Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Now the conspiracy of silence about the injustice they have endured goes all the way to the top. Current Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine built their resumes as prosecutors getting convictions based on Burge’s torture victims.

Today, Leonard is in protective custody at Pontiac Correctional Center. Treated no better than an animal, caged in a small cell, 23 hours a day, seven days a week, with little recreation, he nevertheless maintains a positive attitude as he continues to fight his imprisonment and makes his way through post-conviction litigation.

You can write to Leonard at: Leonard Kidd, #N23646, P.O. Box 99, Pontiac, IL 61764.

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