Timeline

The following timeline was prepared by Students for Human Rights and is based on material from the People’s Law Office, whose lawyers have tirelessly represented many of Burge’s victims of torture over the years.

  •  May 1972 – Jon Burge is promoted to Chicago Police Detective and is assigned to the Area Two detective division on the south side of Chicago. Area Two serves a mostly African-American community, and it is here that the military training in torture he received in Vietnam first begins to arise in the context of his police work.
  • Aug. 1972 – the first allegations of torture and abuse against Jon Burge and other Area 2 detectives are made by three African American men arrested and held at Area 2, Mastin, Smith, and Hill.
  • May 30, 1973 – Anthony “Satan” Jones is tortured by electric-shock and suffocation with a plastic bag by Burge and his men while in custody at Area 2.
  • 1977 – Burge is promoted to Sergeant at Area 2.
  • 1973-1981 – numerous other African-American arrestees are tortured with electric shock and suffocation at Area 2 by Burge and his men in order to obtain confessions.
  • 1981 – Richard M. Daley becomes State’s Attorney of Cook County and holds the office through 1988. Richard Devine is his First Assistant from 1981 to 1983.
  • 1981 – Burge, recently promoted to Lieutenant, is placed in charge of the Violent Crimes Unit at Area 2.
  • Feb. 5, 1982 – While in custody at Area 2, Melvin Jones is tortured with electric-shock by Burge and policemen under his supervision.
  • Feb. 14, 1982 – Andrew Wilson is arrested for murder and brought into Area 2 where he is repeatedly tortured with electric-shock to the genitals, suffocation, and burning on a hot radiator by Burge and policemen under his supervision.
  • February 17, 1982 – After transfer from Area 2, Andrew Wilson is examined by Dr. John Raba, Medical Director of Cermak Health Services at Cook County Jail. Dr. Raba sends a letter to Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek detailing Wilson’s allegations and injuries, and requesting an investigation into Wilson’s torture allegations.
  • Feb. 25, 1982 – Police Superintendent Brzeczek defers acting on Raba’s request, and forwards the report to State’s Attorney Daley who takes no action.
  • January 1983 – Leroy Martin becomes Commander of Area 2 and serves as Burge’s direct supervisor. During the year that Martin holds the post, numerous victims, including Gregory Banks and Darrell Cannon, are tortured at Area 2 under Burge’s direction and supervision by Sgt. John Byrne, detective Peter Dignan, and other Area 2 detectives.
  • November 1984 – the Director of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) – the Chicago Police Department disciplinary agency - informs the Police Superintendent of eleven cases of police use of electric shock on persons in custody. These cases include the Wilson and Cannon cases. No action is taken.
  • 1985 – More than three years after Dr. Raba’s request for an investigation of Wilson’s torture allegations, and after conducting no real investigation, the OPS issues a report dismissing Andrew Wilson’s complaints of torture.
  • Summer 1986 – Burge is moved fro Area 2 and promoted to Commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit. Lt. Phil Cline, now (in 2005) the Police Superintendent, replaces Burge.
  • January 6, 1987 – Madison Hobley is tortured at Area 2, under Cline’s supervision, and at the Bomb and Arson Unit, under Burge’s supervision, and is falsely charged with arson and murder.
  • 1987 – Illinois Supreme Court reverses Andrew Wilson’s conviction and death sentence on the basis that his confession was obtained under torture. People v. Wilson 116 Ill 2d. 29 ( Ill. S.Ct. 1987)
  • 1988 – Burge is transferred to Area 3 Detective Division and appointed Commander. Many of his trusted Area 2 associates, including Sgt John Byrne, also transfer to Area 3, and allegations of torture follow them.
  • 1981-1988 – 55 separate victims are allegedly tortured at Area 2 in order to obtain confessions, including Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, Stanley Howard, Darrell Cannon, and Aaron Patterson. In most of these 55 cases, the States Attorneys’ Office is aware of the allegations, and nonetheless uses the coerced evidence in hearings and criminal trials to convict the victims and send them to prison.
  • 1989 – Richard M. Daley is elected Mayor of Chicago after 7 years as States’ Attorney and after failing to take any action against Burge and his men for the 55 allegations of torture which arose during his tenure as State’s Attorney.
  • February 1989 - Andrew Wilson’s civil rights trial, in which he sues Jon Burge and other police officials for violations of his civil rights including the use of torture, begins in U.S. Federal District Court. Defendant Burge is represented by private lawyers, paid for by the city government. One of Burge’s defense attorneys is the former First Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Devine.
  • February and March 1989 – During the course of the widely publicized trial, Wilson’s lawyers receive letters from an anonymous police source who states that he worked with Burge and who reveals other victims of torture, including Melvin Jones, and names Burge’s torture co-conspirators, including Byrne and Dignan, and further sets forth that the 1982 torture of Wilson, Melvin Jones and Donald White had taken place in front of, or was otherwise known to, the Chief of Detectives, the Superintendent of Police, and the State’s Attorneys.
  • March 1989 – The judge in the Wilson trial reviews the proffered new evidence, characterizes the new evidence of a pattern of torture as “explosive,” but refuses its admission into evidence before the jury. The trial ends when the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict; a mistrial is declared.
  • March-July 1989 – Based on the anonymous letters, Wilson’s lawyers locate numerous additional victims of torture and abuse.
  • July 26, 1989 – Based on this newly discovered evidence, Citizens Alert and other community organizations demand that OPS re-open its investigation into Wilson’s torture allegations and to investigate the other cases of torture.
  • August 1989 – The Wilson civil rights case is retried before a new jury in Federal District Court. The jury finds there to be a pattern and practice of torture by the police, and that Wilson’s constitutional rights were violated, but awards no money damages to him.
  • Fall 1989 – OPS reopens the Wilson investigation and also investigates numerous other newly uncovered cases of torture to determine whether the torture is systematic.
  • Nov. 2, 1990 – OPS completes its investigation, and files two separate reports. In the first report (the Sanders Report), OPS recommends to the Police Superintendent that Burge and two policemen under his supervision, John Yucaitis and Patrick O’Hara, be fired for torturing Wilson. In the second report (the Goldston Report), OPS cites 50 cases of torture and abuse at Area 2 under Burge and finds that this abuse was “systematic,” “methodical,” and “included psychological techniques and planned torture.”
  • December 24, 1990 – Chicago City Council holds a Christmas Eve hearing on Police torture at which lawyers, experts and community organizations present evidence of systematic torture. No action is taken.
  • Jan. 28, 1991 – Amnesty International issues a report calling for an inquiry into allegations of police torture in Chicago. Mayor Daley has “no comment whatsoever.”
  • Sept. 1991 – A 13 year old boy, Marcus Wiggins, alleges that he was tortured with electric shock at Area 3. Burge and Byrne allegedly supervised the interrogation.
  • Nov. 1991 – After delaying for a year, Superintendent Leroy Martin, former Commander of Area 2, approves the administrative charges against Burge, Yucaitis and O’Hara for abusing Wilson, and seeks their firing before the Police Board. Martin rejects the findings of “systematic” torture, refuses to seek criminal charges, and resists the public production of the Goldston Report.
  • January 1992 - During proceedings before the Police Board, City lawyers admit that the evidence of Area 2 torture established “an astounding pattern or plan . . . to torture certain suspects . . . into confessing to crimes or to condone such activity.”
  • Feb. 7, 1992 – OPS publicly releases the two torture reports (the Sander and Goldston reports) after being ordered to do so by a federal judge. OPS’ findings of “systematic torture” receive national attention. Police Superintendent Martin and Mayor Daley jointly attack the findings in public statements and take no action to investigate possible crimes or to seek criminal charges against Burge or anyone else in light of the OPS findings.
  • February-March 1992 – The City seeks to dismiss Burge, Yucaitis and O’Hara from the police force in a six week hearing before the Police Board, based on their torture of Andrew Wilson.
  • July 30,1992 – The Police Foundation, a private organization commissioned by Police Superintendent Martin to review the Goldston Report in an attempt to discredit its findings, recommends that the Chicago Police Department re-investigate cases of serious misconduct listed in the Goldston Report.
  • Feb. 11, 1993 – The Chicago Police Board fires Jon Burge and suspends John Yucaitis for 15 months on charges of torturing and physically abusing Andrew Wilson. O’Hara is completely exonerated.
  • March 1993 – The Fraternal Order of Police, the labor union representing officers of the Chicago Police Department, attempts to enter a float in the city St. Patrick’s Day Parade honoring Jon Burge. Community outrage causes cancellation of the float.
  • 1993 - The OPS reopens investigations into approximately 10 of the 60 known victims of police torture. These cases include victims Cannon and Howard.
  • 1993 – The Federal Court of Appeals grants Andrew Wilson a new civil rights trial and orders that he be allowed to present evidence of the alleged torture of other men by Jon Burge, evidence which had been excluded by the trial judge in the District Court. Wilson v. City of Chicago, 6 F. 3d 1230 (7th Cir.1993).
  • 1993-1994 – After exhaustive investigations, OPS investigators complete detailed reports, sustaining torture allegations in six cases, including Cannon and Howard, against several of Burge’s trusted Area 2 associates, including Sgt. Byrne and detective Dignan.
  • 1994-1998 – OPS Director Gayle Shines refuses to approve or take action on the sustained findings in the six cases, but instead hides the files in her office.
  • May 15, 1995 – City of Chicago admits that Melvin Jones had been electrically shocked by police at Area 2 in their attempt to extract a confession from him.
  • July 13, 1995 – City of Chicago admits in a legal document that Andrew Wilson was tortured by Burge.
  • 1995 –1996 – At Wilson’s civil re-trial, the trial judge enters judgment against Burge, O’Hara and Yucaitis for abusing Wilson, and approves a $1.1 million dollar award to Wilson and his attorneys.
  • 1996-97 - City of Chicago appeals the Wilson judgment, arguing that it is not responsible for Burge’s actions. The Federal Appeals Court rejects this argument, and affirms the City’s liability for Burge’s actions.
  • 1997 – The Illinois Appellate Court orders, in the appeal of his criminal conviction, that Darrell Cannon is entitled to a new hearing on his allegations that his confession was tortured from him by Byrne, Dignan, and other Area 2 detectives working under Burge’s command.
  • 1998 – OPS Director Shines resigns. Police Superintendent Terry Hillard, after discovering the hidden torture files in Shines’ office, officially reverses the sustained torture findings in a secret directive, through his legal counsel. These files and findings are later ordered produced by a federal judge in an unrelated police brutality case.
  • Nov. 1, 1999 – Dr. Robert Kirschner, a forensic pathologist and internationally respected expert on torture, testifies that Cannon and several other Area Two victims were tortured. Dr. Kirschner, one of the authors of the Istanbul Protocols, further testifies that this torture was part of a pattern and practice similar to that found in other countries where official torture is practiced by the military and by police.
  • 1999 – In a habeas corpus case brought by torture victim Andrew Maxwell, Federal District Court Judge Milton Shadur finds that “it is now common knowledge that Jon Burge and many officers working under him regularly engaged in the physical abuse and torture of prisoners in order to extract confessions.” U.S. ex rel. Maxwell v. Gilmore 37 F. Supp.2d 1078 (N.D. Ill. 1999)
  • August 2000 – Illinois Supreme Court recognizes the importance of the newly discovered evidence of torture, and orders that Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard, and two other death row inmates be afforded hearings on their allegations of torture. People v. Patterson, 192 Ill. 2d 93 ( Ill. S. Ct. 2000).
  • 1999-2002 – Community groups demand that the CPD re-open numerous torture investigations and seek a Special Prosecutor to investigate the torture cases. The Police Department and State’s Attorney Richard Devine ignore their pleas.
  • April 2002 – Chief Cook County Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel finds that States Attorney Devine has a conflict of interest and cannot be charged with investigating criminal charges in the Area 2 torture cases because he formerly represented Jon Burge in the Wilson civil rights trial. Judge Biebel appoints a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Area 2 torture cases.
  • January 10, 2003 – Illinois Governor George Ryan grants Death Row inmates Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard, Aaron Patterson and Leroy Orange pardons of their criminal convictions on the basis of innocence. The Governor determines that their confessions were obtained under torture by Burge and his men.
  • 2003 – Hobley, Patterson, Howard and Orange file civil rights lawsuits for their torture and wrongful convictions and imprisonment.
  • 2004 – In furtherance of the code of silence, Burge, Byrne, and more than 30 other Area 2 detectives and supervisors invoke the constitutional right against self-incrimination on each and every allegation of torture when they are questioned at depositions in the pardoned inmates’ civil cases.
  • 2004 – Several African-American former Area 2 detectives who worked under Burge come forward and break the code of silence, admitting in sworn statements given in the civil cases that they saw or heard evidence of torture, saw implements of torture, including Burge’s shock box, and that torture by Burge and his men was an “open secret” at Area 2.
  • April 2004 – The States Attorney’s Office finally dismisses Darrell Cannon’s prosecution rather than rebut his evidence of a tortured confession.
  • January 2005 – In a habeas corpus case brought by torture victim Leonard Hinton, Federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood likened Area 2 torture to that of Abu Ghraib, writing:

    “ [A] mountain of evidence indicates that torture was an ordinary occurrence at the Area Two station of the Chicago Police Department. Eventually, as this sorry tale came to light, the Office of Professional Standards Investigation of the Police Department looked into the allegations, and it issued a report that concluded that police torture under the command of Lt. Jon Burge — the officer in charge of Hinton's case — had been a regular part of the system for more than ten years. And, in language reminiscent of the news reports of 2004 concerning the notorious Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq, the report said that ‘[t]he type of abuse described was not limited to the usual beating, but went into such esoteric areas as psychological techniques and planned torture.’" . . .

Judge Wood further found that the practices of torture in Area 2 violated the U.N. Convention Against Torture, writing:

“ Behavior like that attributed to Burge imposes a huge cost on society: it creates distrust of the police generally, despite the fact that most police officers would abhor such tactics, and it creates a cloud over even the valid convictions in which the problem officer played a role. Indeed, the alleged conduct is so extreme that, if proven, it would fall within the prohibitions established by the United Nations Convention Against Torture ("CAT"), which defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . .," thereby violating the fundamental human rights principles that the United States is committed to uphold.” Hinton v. Uchtman 395 F 3d 810 (7 th Cir, 2005, dissent)

  • Spring 2005 – Documents obtained from the City under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the City of Chicago has spent more than $6 million dollars in legal fees defending the City and Burge and associated policemen against allegations of torture, despite the City’s repeated admission that Burge and his associates had engaged in a pattern and practice of torture.
  • June 2005 – The Special Prosecutor announces that he has now documented 135 cases of torture and abuse under Burge, which is almost three times as many cases as found to amount to “systematic practice of torture” 15 years ago by the OPS.
  • Sept 1, 2005 – Frustrated by the fact that the Special Prosecutor has not brought indictments, community groups petition the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a hearing on police torture and the failure to prosecute Burge and his men.