EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Though your brother's bound and gagged: Cook County court throws out murder confession made under Burge's reign

In what has been described as an unprecedented move, a Cook County judge ordered a new trial for James Andrews, who claimed that his confession was the result of torture at the hands of detectives working under former Chicago Police Commander John Burge. 

In 1983, police brought Andrews in for questioning regarding a dog fight, and while being questioned, Andrews eventually confessed to murdering Floyd Jenkins and Keith Lewis.  According to Andrews, he confessed because the detectives handcuffed him to a steel ring and punched and beat him with a flashlight.

A four year probe of police operations under Burge ended in July, 2006, with the report concluding that police officers under Burge had beaten and tortured subjects.  Based upon this report, Judge Thomas Sumner ruled that a hearing had to be conducted to determine whether Andrews' confession should have been admitted at trial, and after the hearing, he ordered a new trial because Andrews' confession was the only signifcant evidence linking Andrews to the murders.  Undoubtedly, this case will lead to other convicted felons challenging their convictions based upon similar claims.

This case calls to my mind John C. Tucker's excellent book, "Trial and Error: The Education of a Courtroom Laywer."  In the book, Tucker, a former Chicago lawyer, describes a case he handled where a convicted felon claimed that his confession was the result of abusive tactics by police, and from what I remember, he lost although there were other felons making similar claims and there might have been a report on abusive police tactics.  I'm not sure whether that confession was made under Burge's reign, but, again, I'm sure that Cook County courts will soon be flooded with similar challenges by defense counsel based upon this decision.

-CM

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