On this dayNov 18, 1983

James Cody Tortured by Chicago Police

On November 18, 1983, a Black man named James Cody was beaten with a flashlight, subjected to electric shock on his testicles and buttocks, and threatened with castration by officers acting under Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Over the course of almost 30 years, Commander Burge oversaw and participated in the torture of over 100 Black men, resulting in scores of forced confessions. When Commander Burge first took command of the jurisdiction known as Area 2 as a detective in 1972, he and his men—known as the “Midnight Crew”—began forcing confessions using brutal torture practices such as beating, suffocation, electric shock, burning, Russian roulette, and mock execution. 

In 1982, Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Daley was notified of Commander Burge's tactics through a letter detailing Commander Burge's abuse of a man named Andrew Wilson, who was beaten, shocked, suffocated, burned with a radiator, and threatened with a gun in his mouth. Mr. Wilson sued the city in one of numerous complaints and lawsuits alleging torture by Commander Burge and his men. Despite these complaints, the State’s Attorney’s office continued to use confessions obtained by Commander Burge's team to convict and incarcerate dozens of Black men over the next 10 years.

An investigation into the torture allegations was not launched until 1991, following pressure from advocacy groups, international human rights organizations, and torture survivors. Two years later, Commander Burge was fired, and 15 years after that, he was convicted of perjury for lying under oath in one of the civil suits; he served less than four years in prison. In 2015, the city of Chicago approved a $5.5 million reparations package for survivors of the Burge-led torture campaign. The settlement included a formal apology as well as curricular reforms that would highlight the survivors’ stories in schools. Despite the review and reversal of many convictions that were obtained under Commander Burge’s command, in 2015 more than a dozen survivors remained in prison and had not yet had their cases reviewed.

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