October 24, 2008
Chicago torture victims face uphill legal battle
Melvin Jones says he screamed and begged for mercy as Chicago police touched metal clips to his feet and thighs, churned a hand-cranked device and sent shock waves of electricity through his body more than 25 years ago.
He says he was told the torture would stop when he confessed to murder.
Jones is among the dozens of alleged torture victims who have little hope of winning compensation, despite the arrest this week of a former police commander who officials say lied about the abuse.
Some have already completed prison terms for crimes they claim they confessed to only after police beat or electrocuted them. More than 20 remain in prison.
But the indictment of former police Lt. Jon Burge -- while a moral victory -- is unlikely to spring anyone from prison soon or prompt any quick settlement of claims for damages, lawyers for alleged torture victims say.
The state attorney general's office hasn't agreed to new trials for those claiming coerced confessions and the city opposes paying damages to alleged victims, they say.
''There hasn't been much courage shown by high political officials,'' attorney Flint Taylor, who represents Jones, said Wednesday. ''That's something that needs to be changed before this nightmare can end.''
Burge, 60, was charged with lying in a civil rights lawsuit when he said he and detectives never engaged in activities such as ''bagging'' -- covering a suspect's head with a typewriter cover until he couldn't breathe. [Mark Godsey]
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