Exclusive: Report from 14 November Hearing to Obtain Class-Action Status for 100 Incarcerated Chicago Police Torture Victims

Part of the small but spirited gathering of political activists showing their support for imprisoned victims of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s Torture Squad outside Cook County Criminal Courts Building, 14 November 2012. Photo by IWPCHI

[NOTE TO READERS:  As thrilling as it must be for you to read our scintillating prose, if you wish to simply get to the transcript of remarks made immediately after today’s hearing by Peoples Law Office attorney Joey Mogul, skip down to the bottom of this article. – IWPCHI]

Cook County Criminal Courts Building, Chicago, IL (November 14):
Lawyers from the People’s Law Office appeared in Cook County (IL) Court today to pursue their goal of obtaining class-action status for the 100 still-imprisoned victims of the  infamous Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge’s torture squad.

A typically small (for a largely brainwashed and apathetic Chicago working-class population of over 3 million) but spirited demonstration in support of the imprisoned torture victims was held before the court hearing began.  Initiated by the “Campaign to End Torture” group led by Mark Clements – himself a formerly incarcerated victim of the Chicago Police Department’s torture squad – this group of approximately 30 people set up a picket line directly in front of the Cook County Courthouse building and let everyone entering the building know why we were there: to demand that all imprisoned victims of the CPD’s torture gang be released immediately.

Friends and family of Stanley Howard participate in demonstration on behalf of Chicago Police Department torture victims outside Cook County Criminal Courts Building, Chicago, IL, 14 November, 2012. Photo by IWPCHI

Several different groups were represented in the protest: “Campaign to End Torture” was there, as was one representative of the Independent Workers Party of Chicago; at least two members of the Socialist Workers Party and a couple of folks from Occupy Chicago, who brought a long banner presenting the names of every known incarcerated torture victim still languishing in the Illinois prison system.  Significantly present were several family members of imprisoned victims of Jon Burge’s CPD torture squad, including a group of supporters of Stanley Howard (www.freestanleyhoward.com).

Half of the banner brought by Occupy Chicago supporters listing the 100 names of known imprisoned victims of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s torture squad outside Cook County Criminal Courts building in Chicago, IL, 14 November, 2012. Photo by IWPCHI

Notably not present were some of the most prominent socialist groups in the city, including the International Socialists Organization (ISO), the Spartacist League and the Sparts’ Partisan Defense Committee, a group allegedly dedicated to fighting for the rights of political prisoners.  Perhaps they were all staring on their Christmas shopping the week before Black Friday?  None of the major trade unions sent a single member, which is absolutely typical of the pro-capitalist, pro-cop “business unionist” trade union bureaucracy in the U.S.

Also nowhere in evidence were the usual phalanx of mobile satellite broadcast trucks of the city’s television news stations.  But that’s no surprise: these pro-capitalist propaganda outlets have consistently distinguished themselves by attempting to completely ignore this major scandal from the time the story was first broken by ‘Chicago Reader’ journalist/playwright John Conroy  to the present day.

The hearing was held in courtroom 101 on the ground floor of the ancient Cook County Criminal Courts building, which itself sits atop a suite of holding cells for the hundreds of mostly black and Hispanic prisoners awaiting trial every day.  These holding cells are scenes of torture on a daily basis themselves: hundreds of prisoners are herded from hideously overcrowded, filthy holding cell to hideously overcrowded, filthy holding cell, packed into barred, open cells in such numbers that it is impossible to sit down; and the men and women have to stand for hours, shoulder to shoulder, awaiting their moment in the notorious kangaroo court system of Cook County, where the judges and prosecutors boast of “98% conviction rates” due to defendants’ willingness to plead guilty to crimes they never committed or were improperly arrested for just to get out of the hellhole “Crook County” jail system.  Amnesty International would have a field day if they were allowed to view the conditions in these holding cells, which are probably not much better than those found in any brutal prison system in any “Third World” country.  The U.S. government has nothing to boast about – “human rights-wise” – when it comes to prison conditions in U.S. county jails.  All the judges, lawyers, prosecutors and capitalist press know full well about the horrid conditions in the Cook County Jail – and they collaborate to cover up this major scandal that literally sits directly under their feet every time they enter the “Crook” County Criminal Courts Building!

But, we digress.

The hearing in courtroom 101 was held in front of “the Honorable” (that is the honorific title traditionally and – usually ironically – used in the U.S.) Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. in a courtroom vastly different from the kind we see portrayed in endless, tediously hagiographic Hollywood productions.  Unlike the august, dark-paneled temples of justice seen in, say, Law and Order, Judge Biebel’s courtroom is a model of police-state technology, with a floor-to-ceiling glass partition and door separating the defendant-victims and their families from the courtroom itself.  The proceedings are capable of being closed to the public at any time by shutting the glass door to the courtroom and then turning off the audio which is piped into the gallery area through three lines of loudspeakers.  In this way, the public can be cut off from hearing what’s going on in the courtroom; the gallery can be placed under a virtual “cone of silence” at any time by order of the judge.

The “Cone of Silence” installed in Courtroom 101 in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building as it appeared on November 14, 2012. No credit.

In today’s hearing, the issue at stake was whether or not the Cook County Prosecutor’s office, led now by Anita Alvarez, can be allowed to represent the state in this case, or whether the manifest and multifold conflicts of interest that exist between the wholly interpenetrated Chicago Police Department and Cook County Prosecutors’ office have created a situation in which it is impossible for the Cook County Prosecutor to fairly and equitably administer even the rough semblance of “justice” in this case.  [SPOILER ALERT: The “Crook” County Prosecutor’s Office is so completely compromised by every conceivable level of corruption that could exist between two branches of government that there “ain’t no way” they can be considered impartial in this case or any case involving the Chicago Police Department. – IWPCHI]

So, when the case was called, the judge immediately ruled that it would be much more convenient for everyone involved if they retired to his chambers to discuss the finer points of law, undistracted by the eyes and ears of the very interested citizenry assembled in the gallery.  Into the judge’s chambers they all went – lawyers for the torture victims and prosecutors, special prosecutors and all – and we waited in the gallery for the outcome of this “meeting of the minds” so to speak.

In about 15 minutes, they re-emerged into the light of public observation, and the judge blurted out a series of court dates that would be upcoming, in which both sides could make their cases as to whether or not, and why or why not it was right and proper for the “Crook” County Prosecutors’ office, long “in bed” with the Chicago Police Department, to exercise legal jurisdiction over this case, or whether a special prosecutor should be appointed in their place [SPOILER ALERT: This is something like arguing that the Titanic would still be sailing across the Atlantic today if it had a different captain in 1912.  In the capitalist courts, workers can never expect to find “justice”, even on a good day, in front of a “decent” judge and a “fair” prosecutor.  And in hugely political cases like this one, “the fix”, as they say, almost certainly already “is in”. And that goes double when the court in question sits in the County of Cook, in the State of Illinois, in the Untied Snakes of America. – IWPCHI]

Lawyers from the People’s Law Office confer outside courtroom 101 in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building after class-action petition hearing, 14 November 2012.  Attorney Joey Mogul is second from right, with her back to the camera.  Photo by IWPCHI

Thank god that the People’s Law Office brought an interpreter along with them to explain to us mere workers the strange signs and figures we had just seen described in impenetrable legalese by “the Honorable” Judge Biebel.  Her name was (and is) Joey L. Mogul – she is an Attorney at Law.  And she concisely and quite nicely laid out the situation for us in 5 minutes.  We used our “cleverphone” to record her remarks, and somehow managed to get almost all of them even though the “cleverphone”, we discovered too late, makes voice notes of a maximum duration of 60 seconds at a time [DAMN YOU, RICHARD BRANSON!! (1) – IWPCHI].  Ms. Mogul’s remarks are reproduced here.  All errors are ours, but we were very careful to reduce them to a reasonably small number below around five but definitely probably above zero.  (See (1), above.

REMARKS OF JOEY L. MOGUL, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW, PEOPLE’S LAW OFFICE:

JM:  “Hi, everybody – hi.  Sorry to make you wait in the cold.  First of all, thank you for coming today.  I think it’s really important to show support for the guys behind bars, so we really appreciate you coming here and being outside in the cold.
O.K.:  so you know this was about our class-action petition, right?  Seeking hearings for all of the torture survivors who are behind bars who have never gotten an evidentiary hearing, O.K.?  So these have to be… to be individuals who were tortured or physically coerced under Burge’s supervision at Area 2 or Area 3, right?  So we filed that petition; and at the same time we know that the “Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission” – TIRC [pronounced: “turk” – IWP] – has made findings in 5 cases that individuals should get evidentiary hearings.  One of those cases – Shawn Whirl – was up today with the class-action petition.
[Switching to recording number 2, we lost a bit of Ms. Mogul’s remarks.  She said that the primary question being raised in today’s in-camera proceeding in the judge’s chamber was… – IWPCHI]
JM: “… Who is gonna respond in behalf of the state?  Because – just as a reminder – back in 2002 the State’s Attorney’s Office when run by Dick Devine was found to have a [per se? – IWP] conflict [of interest – IWP] because Dick Devine, when leaving the State’s Attorney’s Office [in the 80s? – IWP] went into private [law – IWP] practice; and while in private practice, he and his law firm represented Jon Burge and the other white detectives, in Andrew Wilson’s civil rights case.  And as a result of that conflict, that is how we had special prosecutors [appointed – IWP] to investigate the crimes of Burge and others; and that’s later why we had Lisa Madigan’s offices to be appointed in representing various torture survivors who had post-conviction petitions, right?
Later, in 2009, what happened is that the A.G.’s [Attorney General’s – IWP] office said that they didn’t have enough resources in which to represent all of the existing [unintelligible – IWP] in all these cases; and that is why Judge [Engelman’s ? – IWP] office was appointed as a special prosecutor.

The state is being… the State’s Attorney’s Office, they have said… Alvarez’ office says they want to represent the State’s interest with respect to our class-action petition, and with respect to the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission cases.  So they [Alvarez’ office] are now responding, on December 12th, as to whether they are ‘conflicted out’ from representing the state on these cases.  We will then file a reply in January – on January 7th – saying what our position is.  And our position is that State’s Attorney Alvarez’ office has a conflict; that conflict remains from the Devine era; and that that [conflict – IWP] prevents them from taking – representing the state in this case.  There will be a hearing on January 15th.  So that’s a status hearing; and eventually we will probably have arguments before Judge Biebel, O.K.?  Does that make sense?”

[We switch again to the next recording, missing 10 seconds of audio – IWP]

JM:  “Well, we certainly are disappointed… [at this point, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez walked by, attracting the attention of Mark Clements of the ‘Campaign to End Torture’.  As she walked by, Mr. Clements shouted: “FREE THE TORTURE VICTIMS!”  This completely justified outburst predictably discomfited Ms. Mogul… – IWP]
JM:  “Mark, don’t… Mark… please don’t do that.”
Mark Clements: “That’s Alvarez.”
JM:  “But, Mark, don’t.  That’s just… you know?  We don’t need it.
We believe there’s a conflict [of interest – IWP]; we believe that conflict’s been found; we think that conflict remains, O.K.?  Yes, we are anxious to get to the merits; yes we want hearings for these individuals; we would like to get through this quickly so that we can actually get to the issues of the fact that there are potential torture survivors who are still behind bars, who’ve never been given any due process and have never been given a fair opportunity to have their torture allegations heard.  We will move with as quick speed as possible.  We would like… we would like the State’s Attorney’s office to acknowledge their conflicts […] and step aside so we can get to the merits.  That said, we are prepared to fight this; we are prepared to argue it in court; and we are going to prepare to proceed, because we look forward to having our day in court…”

[We switch again to the next recording, again missing around 10 seconds of dialogue.  Ms. Mogul has ended her presentation, and a question and answer session begins. – IWPCHI]

Q. [by unknown person]: “Those are five individual cases?”
JM: [affirming – IWP] “Those are five individual cases.”
Q:  “Was [Javon? unintelligible name – IWP] one of them?”
JM: “No, he was not.”
Q: [unintelligible]
JM: “I don’t know if he was [unintelligible – IWP]… if he filed a claim to the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission or not, or if it’s an issue about…”
Q: “Did he file a claim?”
JM: “… Let me say this: whether he did or did not, the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission was only able to get to a small number of cases.  They have now been funded to investigate further cases, O.K.?  That said, Javon Deloney [phonetic spelling – IWP] is one of the… in the putative class members; he’s one of the people [who we’ve looked at recently – IWP] under our class-action petition, O.K.?”
Q. [Mark Clements? – IWP]: “And I think that’s the route that he should go.”
JM: “That’s something that should be discussed privately, O.K.?  Any other questions?”
Independent Workers Party: “Yes. What do you feel is the advantage of having a class-action suit in this kind of a case?”
JM: “We think… because we think what has happened has been insufficient.  Individual cases fought here and there has not resolved this systemic issue…”

[Here the recording ends.  Ms. Mogul went on to say that in major cases of police misconduct or brutality involving, as the Burge cases do, dozens of individuals, such as the many cases in Oakland and Los Angeles, California; in Philadelphia and in other jurisdictions, class-action proceedings have been repeatedly adopted as the most efficient way to handle such large numbers of similar cases, but that this has never been done before [SPOILER ALERT: Surprise, surprise! – IWP] in Illinois or Chicago. – IWP]

IWPCHI

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2 responses to “Exclusive: Report from 14 November Hearing to Obtain Class-Action Status for 100 Incarcerated Chicago Police Torture Victims

  1. Keep [fig]hting THE RACE IS NOT TO THE STRONG, NOR TO THE SWIFT BUT TO THOSE WHO HOLD OUT [TO] THE END. [K]EEP HOLDING ON.

    Like

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