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After Burge Trial, Chicago's Congressmen Move To Lift Statute Of Limitations On Torture

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Following the conviction of former police commander Jon Burge, members of Chicago's congressional delegation are sponsoring legislation to lift the statute of legislation on charges of torture by law enforcement officers.

At a news conference Thursday, Rep. Danny Davis said that Burge's conviction on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice was "simply not enough," and that charges of torture should never expire.

From Burge's twenty years with the Chicago Police Department, there are 110 known cases of police torture in which Burge was either directly involved or was the supervising officer. But these cases occurred too long ago to prosecute Burge for them; the statute of limitations had run out on the torture charges.

Instead, federal prosecutors charged Burge with lying under oath in a 2003 civil suit by Madison Hobley, a convicted felon who made accusations of beatings, electric shocks and death threats while he was in police custody.

Burge testified in that case that he had never participated in torture, nor did he know about its existence. In his trial, prosecutors laid out extensive evidence of five separate suspects with whose torture Burge was clearly involved.

This week, Burge was convicted; he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison, according to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

But for Davis, as many others, obstruction of justice didn't feel like enough for a notorious, systematic abuser of the vulnerable and voiceless, and a man who has singlehandedly sown the seeds of police mistrust throughout the city, especially in its black communities.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Had this bill been in effect ... Burge would be guilty of torture and not just perjury," Davis said at a news conference today.

Davis said he will introduce his bill today. He appeared with Sen. Roland Burris, who plans to introduce a similar measure in the Senate after lawmakers return July 12 from the Fourth of July recess.

They appeared with Rep. Bobby Rush, who with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is a co-sponsor of Davis' bill. All four lawmakers are Chicago Democrats.

Burris said they were standing up for Burge's victims, many of them minorities who were "too often left without a voice."

Davis told the Tribune the bill would gather more co-sponsors after the recess, and was optimistic he could secure its passage.