Friday, July 2, 2010

Slow Justice

Okay, the following is the story as I wrote it. I think you'll agree I showed very admirable restraint. It is not always easy maintaining objectivity. You have no idea how much I wanted to insert my comments on this one.

Mark Clements spent 28 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. On Monday, he and a group of activists and other torture victims found themselves in the federal court building in downtown Chicago, waiting for the verdict in the Jon Burge trial.

Clements choked up when he heard the news. Burge had been convicted of all counts against him: one count of lying under oath and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Jon Burge is a former Chicago Police Lieutenant who led unit of cops that tortured black suspects in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Burge’s trial lasted five weeks. Five victims testified about how they signed false confessions after being suffocated, electrically shocked, beaten and threatened with guns placed in their mouths.

Burge was not on trial for the tortures themselves, but for lying under oath in a 2003 civil lawsuit about what he knew about the torture. The statute of limitations on the tortures ran out long ago.

Mark Clements was 16 years old when he was tortured by men under Burge into signing a false confession. He cried when he talked about how he felt about Burge’s conviction.
My daughter is 29 years old,” said Clements through sobs. “I missed all those years with my daughter, sitting in those prison cells for a crime I didn't commit. I do not feel sorry for Jon Burge."

Many call the guilty verdict significant. One juror said it was hard to find a police officer guilty because most people, by instinct believe an officer’s side of the story. Many human rights groups believe that is why New York City officers were not convicted in the killing of Sean Bell or why the LA Police who were caught on tape beating Rodney King got off.

Whether or not this verdict reflects a shift in the public’s willingness to hold police accountable for their actions is not clear, but Clements said that he’s “Relieved that at least one of these people is now going to finally feel the pain.”

And that was the objective story I wrote. Good work. Straight and to the point without a lot of my input.

Now that I'm here on my own time, I can commentate, right? (Right, Josh, go nuts!) Because writing that without bursting out into a tirade took a lot of self-control and I think I've earned a rant.

Okay, forget the fact that innocent men like Mark Clements, Ronnie Kitchen, Melvin Jones, Martin Reeves and countless others suffered at the hands of police like Burge and his thugs. Forget the 22 torture victims who are still in prison because of confessions that were forced from them.

Wait, don't forget them. Never forget it. Let's just put it aside for a second so I can make an intellectual appeal to those reading this who aren't the bleeding heart type.

Because I know what many of you are thinking.

You're thinking, even if you're not going to say it out loud, that at least some of these guys probably did the crimes they were locked away for, regardless of whether their confessions were beaten out of them.

Actually, I take that back. I've gotten tired of making intellectual appeals to people who don't care.

Are you really okay with police doing anything they want with impunity? Have you stopped to think what kind of person wants to become a cop under those circumstances?

Two kinds of people: naive idealists who really want to help people and Droogies.

This is not about hating cops.

This is about living in a society that allows monsters to be police. Nothing gives a sadistic bully a hard-on like the idea of walking around with a gun, a badge and absolute impunity. And as long as we refuse to hold police accountable, we will have psychopaths lining up, just itching to join the force.

This isn't an insult to police who truly want to help their fellow man. Quite the opposite.

If we let the thugs and monsters blend in with them, then we're dishonoring all of them, aren't we?

So try to understand that celebrating the conviction of Jon Burge has nothing to do with hating cops.

Next stop, Stark County, Ohio. If there is a God and if he is just, maybe Sheriff Tim Swanson and the 7 sexual predators he has been protecting will be prosecuted at
some point.

But that's another post. And you know what? I think it's gonna come soon.

And in case any of you care, I know I should be listening to Rage Against the Machine or N.W.A. or something like that given the topic, but I'm in an ethereal pop mood, so I'm listening to a gorgeous new 180g re-release of:

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