Burge Breaks Down - NBC Chicago

Burge Breaks Down

Defense attorney ticks off a list of accusations



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    John Burge walks out of federal court after jury selection in his perjury trial.

    Former police commander Jon Burge, 62, took the witness stand at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to defend himself against accusations that he committed perjury during a civil suit about taking part in police torture. 

    He began like Joe Friday: "Just the facts, ma’am."  "Yes, sir." and "No, sir."

    Defense attorney Marc Martin led his client through a laundry list of accusations, actually ticking off every claim made against the former officer.  And dressed in a blue suit and speaking in a gravely, staccato tone, Burge repeatedly denied the allegations.  Among them, that he electroshocked or tried to suffocate suspects with a plastic typewriter cover to get them to admit to crimes.
    Burge is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about abusing prisoners.
    His testimony, in the courtroom of Judge Joan Lefkow, follows the accounts of five men who said they had been abused or tortured by Burge and men under his command, almost all out of Area 2 on the far south side.
    The most notorious case: the one of Andrew Wilson.
    In 1983, Wilson and his brother Jackie were charged with the murder of two Chicago police officers. It was a  heater case, highly controversial and emotional.
    Burge headed the investigation and on the witness stand he began to recount how he led the team that arrested Andrew Wilson.
    At that point Burge broke down and composed himself only after Judge Lefkow handed him a tissue.  A short time later he broke down again when talking about working for five days straight and about how when Andrew Wilson finally confessed, he left Area 2 for sandwiches and a couple of drinks.
    Burge said he never participated in the interrogation of Wilson. But in 1993, the city fired Burge, citing Wilson's torture. In all more than 100 men have alleged abuse.
    Prosecutors have called 25 witnesses and attorney Flint Taylor, who has represented many who have accused Burge, says the former police commander is asking the jury to believe only him.
    “He's saying they all are lying and he's telling the truth,” said Taylor.
    Prosecutor David Weisman challenged Burge's memory when he said he could not remember details of a sworn affidavit he signed in 2003 saying he never tortured anyone.
    But had no trouble remembering investigations dating back 37 years.
    One witness, Shaheed Mu'min said Burge once played Russian roulette with him while under interrogation.
    Burge's response: “I may not be Mensa material, but I'm not that stupid sir.”
    The prosecution tried to point out Burge’s inconsistencies, especially involving the Andrew Wilson case.
    Burge testified he told his officers to treat Wilson “with kid gloves” while being interrogated.
    Prosecutor: Did you ever witness any abuse in 1973?
    Burge: No.
    Prosecutor: 1977?
    Burge: No.
    Prosecutor: 1983?
    Burge: No.
    Prosecutor: Then why did you have to tell your men to treat Wilson with kid gloves?

    "I didn't have to tell them that," Burge testified. "I wanted to make sure that Mr. Wilson was treated as nicely as possible to make sure" his officers didn't do anything wrong.

    He was asked about the wounds that are seen in photographs on Wilson's chest and face.  Burge said he saw a wound on Wilson's forehead from when he was forced to the floor to get handcuffed, but didn't notice any others.  He called Wilson's injuries "superficial."

    Burge said he first learned that Wilson had alleged torture when he read a complaint that had been filed against police.