Ronald Kitchen

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Issues Apology for Police Torture in Decades-long Scandal

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an apology for the torture of dozens of African Americans during interrogations by police in the 1970s and 80s.

Emanuel's apology was made on Friday, Sept. 11, the same day the Chicago City Council approved a $12.3 million settlement to be divided equally between police torture victims Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves.

The dozens of men subjected to police torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and men under his command was a "dark chapter" in his city's history, Emanuel said.

According to news reports, Emanuel made the following statement:

"This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago. I want to build a future for the city of Chicago. I don't want to just deal with the past. But we have to close the books on this. We have to reconcile our past and start to write a future and a new chapter for the children of the city of Chicago and for the city.

"So yes, there has been a settlement, and I do believe this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened here in the city, and closing that period of time, that stain on the city's reputation, its history and now being able to embark on a new part of the city and a new way of actually doing business. And that is not who we are, and we all are in one way or another obviously sorry.

"Here's what I mean. I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on."

Kitchen, who spent 21 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned, issued the following statement: "I am pleased that Mayor Emanuel, 25 years after I was tortured and wrongfully convicted, has apologized on behalf of the City and the police department. He has admitted that my torture, which was part of a 20-year reign of terror in the black community, is a stain on the history of the City and said he is sorry for it. However, the fight for justice in the torture cases will not be over until all Burge torture victims receive compensation for their suffering, the men still in jail get fair hearings, and Burge's pension is taken from him."

"The abusive police actions were made possible by high ranking City and County officials, who helped keep the torture secret, thwarted attempts to discipline police officers, and refused to act on calls for investigations and prosecutions of Burge and others responsible for the systemic pattern of torture," said Locke Bowman, Director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. "Ronald Kitchen was tortured and spent much of his life in prison because so many of the people we entrusted to uphold justice opted instead to destroy it."

The MacArthur Justice Center and the People's Law Office represented Kitchen in the lawsuit and negotiated the settlement with the City of Chicago.

G. Flint Taylor of the People's Law Office said he was pleased with the apology but repeated a call for the city to create a fund of at least $20 million "to compensate those torture survivors who have been prevented from bringing lawsuits by the City's decades long cover-up."

The MacArthur Justice Center and the People's Law Office have filed a class action lawsuit, which could lead to individual hearings to evaluate the cases of 40 or more imprisoned men with credible claims that their convictions were tainted by torture committed by Burge and his associates. That case is pending. More information about that class action case and the torture of Kitchen can be found in the links below.

Class Action Suit Offers Opportunity to Bring Closure to Burge Torture Scandal, MacArthur Justice Center Burge class action case update

Finance Committee Approves $12.3 Million Settlement With Police Torture Victims Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves (pdf), MacArthur Justice Center news release

Emanuel apologizes for torture under former Chicago Police commander, cohorts, Chicago Sun-Times

City settles Burge torture cases for $12.3 million, Emanuel offers apology, Chicago Tribune

Jon Burge's legacy, Chicago Tribune archives

Video of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's apology, Ward Room blog, NBC 5 Chicago

Updated - 09/13/2013

Finance Committee Approves $12.3 Million Settlement With Police Torture Victims Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves

The Finance Committee of the City of Chicago on Friday Sept. 6 approved payment of a $12.3 million settlement to be divided between Ronald Kitchen, a former Death Row prisoner who spent 21 years behind bars, and his co-defendant Marvin Reeves.

The criminal convictions of Kitchen and Reeves were overturned in 2009 with the agreement of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and the men later received certificates of innocence from the Cook County Courts.  Kitchen was convicted based on his false confession extracted through torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, detective Michael Kill and two other detectives, and the false testimony of a jailhouse snitch.

Kitchen's lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleged that he was arrested on a false tip, deprived of food and sleep and repeatedly tortured by Burge and Kill and their associates who beat him with their fists, a nightstick and a telephone, inflicting serious injury to his genitals.

News Release (pdf)
$12.3 million settlement in police torture case spares Daley from testifying, Chicago Sun-Times
$12.3M for 2 alleged Burge victims, Chicago Sun-Times
City Poised To Pay Another Police-Torture Settlement, WBBM

Updated - 09/06/2013

Ronald Kitchen Sues Burge, Daley, Others for Torture and Wrongful Conviction

Days after disgraced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was found guilty of crimes related to his systematic torture of African American suspects, Ronald Kitchen (video), a former Death Row inmate who was declared innocent and released from prison last year, sued Burge and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for their key roles in his wrongful imprisonment.

Burge was a central culprit, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges that Kitchen was subjected to an abusive interrogation in August 1988 that included protracted beatings and an assault on his testicles with a blackjack, among other things. According to the suit, Burge was a direct participant in the abuse.

Under the coercion of this physical abuse, Kitchen gave a false confession to a quintuple murder that he did not commit. Kitchen was convicted, principally on the basis of this coerced confession, and condemned to Death Row, where he spent 13 years until the sentence was commuted by former Illinois Governor George Ryan, who was so troubled by recurring torture accusations that he adopted a moratorium on the Death Penalty. Kitchen remained in prison for a total of 21 years. He was released in July 2009, after the Illinois Attorney General concluded that Kitchen's post-conviction challenge to his conviction should not be contested.

"Burge's conviction affords a small measure of justice to those he victimized - but the quest for justice doesn't end there," said Locke Bowman, Legal Director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law. "Burge, his underlings and high-ranking officials in local law enforcement - including Mayor Daley - all conspired to take 21 years of freedom from Ronald Kitchen. The justice system owes a debt to Ronald Kitchen for failing him so tragically."

Kitchen's suit alleges that, as Cook County State's Attorney, Daley was presented with credible evidence linking Burge to torture in 1982, more than five years before Kitchen was arrested. Daley became complicit in the crime when he neglected to conduct an investigation into the allegations, squandering an opportunity to stop the torture from proliferating and ultimately claiming Kitchen as a victim. Daley personally authorized his office to seek the Death Penalty against Kitchen and against a number of other Burge victims, despite their claims that the charges against them rested on confessions extracted by torture.

The Circuit Court of Cook County granted Kitchen a Certificate of Innocence in 2009.

Updated - 08/10/2010