Twenty one years ago, Marvin Reeves was arrested for the murders of two women and three children. His conviction was based on the testimony of a felon demanding favors from jail, and on the confession of his co-defendant, Ronnie Kitchen.
Now, after being freed last year, Reeves is suing the city of Chicago and a number of individuals, claiming that Kitchen's confession was obtained through savage torture.
Courthouse News reports that the defendants include former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who is notorious for leading a group of detectives and officers known as the "Midnight Crew." This group has been connected with hundreds of cases of brutal interrogation, including electric shock and mock executions, in an effort to obtain confessions.
In Reeves' complaint, he alleges that Burge, along with assistant state's attorney Mark Lukanich and other police officers, employed these techniques on Ronnie Kitchen:
The torture was brutal and sadistic, and lasted for hours. Among other things, Defendant Officers and Defendant Lukanich beat Kitchen with a blackjack, a telephone and a telephone book; kicked and punched him repeatedly over several hours; and denied all requests from Mr. Kitchen for them to stop and for Kitchen to be provided an attorney. Eventually, these officers succeeded in torturing a false confession from Mr. Kitchen, who falsely implicated himself and Mr. Reeves in the murders.
Kitchen and Reeves came under suspicion for the murders based on a call to the police from Willie Williams. According to the complaint, Williams' first question to the police was what they could do for him. He apparently asked to be placed in a work-release program and to have his girlfriend and child relocated.
He then told officers that Kitchen and Reeves had committed the five murders to settle a drug debt. Police arranged and recorded dozens of phone calls between Williams and the two suspects in the hopes that they would say something incriminating. Instead, the complaint says, "neither Mr. Kitchen nor Mr. Reeves ever said a word on these calls implicating themselves in the murders. In fact, Mr. Reeves explicitly denied involvement in the murders during these calls. However, the vast majority of these exculpatory call transcripts and recordings were destroyed by the CPD."
The prosecution relied on Williams' testimony, the false confession coerced from Kitchen, and manipulation of eyewitnesses to build a case against the two, while presenting no physical evidence in the trial. "Numerous fingerprints" were collected at the crime scene, none of which were used in the trial.
Taking a moment to put events in perspective, the complaint reads, "The totality of the Defendants' misconduct in Plaintiff's criminal case was so egregiously abusive that it shocks the conscience."
Nonetheless, the two men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. When it was revealed that Williams had in fact been given favors in exchange for his testimony, and that the State failed to disclose these favors, Kitchen and Reeves were cleared of all charges and exonerated, in July of 2009.
Meanwhile, Jon Burge is facing trial this May for perjury and obstruction of justice, and a new grand jury probe may charge Burge and other officers under his command with torture.
Marlene Martin of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty wrote a lengthy profile of Reeves. In it, she discussed Burge's trial with him:
Asked how he feels about Burge going on trail, Marvin says this, "I'd like to see him go to jail. This man committed some horrible crimes, and America needs to stand up and do the right thing. For too long, it's done the wrong thing. The judges, the police officers, the state's attorneys--they all just sat back and did nothing and let this happen.
"You know what Governor George Ryan said--the system is not only broken, but irreparable. What they need to do is to send this man to jail to let the other cops know this stuff isn't going to be tolerated--that there are going to be consequences."
Reeves' lawsuit, and the upcoming trial and grand jury hearing, may finally bring some of those consequences to bear on Burge and his Midnight Crew.