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