Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Torture in America

Yesterday, Judge Ruben Castillo in the Northern District of Illinois issued a shocking opinion that details allegations of tactics employed by the City of Chicago police department that clearly meet the definition of torture, putting our lawyered-up, Bush-era CIA "interrogators" to shame.

It starts with the arrest of Oscar Walden, Jr., for allegedly raping a woman on Chicago's south side.  Walden was brought to the Kensington police station, where he was questioned by several officers in the presence of the alleged victim, who did not state that Walden was her attacker.  Walden was then isolated for questioning.  According to Walden, the officers repeatedly kicked him in the shins in an attempt to coerce him to confess.  He did not confess.

Walden was held overnight.  The next day, he was questioned by two detectives.  They threatened to transfer him to the 11th street station, where they promised he'd be treated brutally.  Still he did not confess.  Then one of the detectives bent back Walden's fingers and kicked him in the shins, while the other knocked his head from side to side.  Walden still denied the attack, and repeatedly requested an attorney.  The detective ignored his requests. 

"You are lying, nigger," one detective said, at which point the other detective ordered another officer to "go get the rope."  They informed Walden that their plan was to strip him, string him up on a high bar, and beat him with a rubber hose until he confessed.  They also threatened his family.  At this point, Walden confessed in the manner requested. 

Walden was then tried and convicted for the rape based primarily on the evidence of his confession, despite his claim at trial that the confession was coerced.  He was sentenced to 75 years' imprisonment.

The silver lining?  All of these events occurred almost 60 years ago.  In 2002, Walden was pardoned by Governor George Ryan (who, in an twist of fate, is now imprisoned himself, and had his petition for habeas corpus denied yesterday).  The City of Chicago now admits that Walden's confession was "false, fabricated, and coerced through torture."  Walden is now suing the City on a variety of counts, and yesterday Judge Castillo denied the City's motion for summary judgment as to most of his claims, which will now go to trial.

Have we come a long way?

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