Burge Victims’ Attorneys Fight Transfers

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Civil Rights attorney Locke Bowman recently accused Attorney General Lisa Madigan of trying to “dump” 5 cases connected to former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Bowman, a lawyer with the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center who represents the torture victims as well as advocates opposing the transfers, said the cases were transferred to Madigan’s office by a court order six years ago.

Interviewed in February, Bowman said the cases involve men were convicted with evidence generated by Burge and officers under his command. Burge, who was fired in 1991 and is currently under federal indictment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, is accused of having directed torture of numerous suspects in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Some of those tortured received prison sentences of life while others found themselves on death row. Bowman said that in 2003, the court reassigned the Burge cases to Madigan’s office, finding that then-Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine had a conflict of interest because he was a former attorney for Burge.

The court found this conflict of interest tainted Devine’s entire staff, which included the current State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Bowman said that Madigan is delaying the hearings on the men’s torture allegations by petitioning the Cook County Circuit Court to transfer the cases back to the Cook County’s Attorney Office. Bowman told Residents’ Journal during a Feb. 27 phone interview that Madigan just doesn’t want to handle the cases. “She’s saying that nobody has a conflict of interest and she just doesn’t want to handle it because she’s too busy,” Bowman said. “The concern is there are a number of people in prison who claim they were tortured by the disgraced police commander…and officers who worked for him. And they’ve never had a hearing into those claims and they’re maybe in prison as a result of torture. The cases needs to be looked at, not shuffled back and forth from one prosecutor to the other.” The judge in the court battle will make a ruling on April 7, Bowman added.

Madigan’s Take
Cara Smith, deputy chief of staff for Madigan, told RJ during a Feb. 27 phone interview that Madigan wanted to send the cases back to the Cook County Attorney’s office because the conflict of interest with Devine no longer exists. The conflict of interest has nothing to do with Alvarez, she said. “In the five cases we are seeking to transfer back, nothing has happened in the years that the cases have been assigned to us. The defense attorneys have not filed what’s called the post conviction petition, and that’s what frames what we should investigate. That’s what tells us what the framework of the investigation should be. The ball is in their court,” Smith said.

Of the 21 cases of alleged torture Madigan currently has, Smith said eight of them have been resolved and eight are pending, besides the 5 inactive ones they want transferred back to the County’s office. Smith added that Madigan’s office has placed a high priority on the active Burge cases. “We have and continue to devote an extreme extraordinary amount of resources to the handling of those cases,” Smith said. “The attorney general takes her job as representing the state in those cases very, very, very seriously. And that effort has resulted in three of the men being freed. And we have eight other cases that are currently pending in the office that we are working on that we did not seek to transfer back.”

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