Victor Safforld

Burge Torture Victim Released from Prison

After 21 years in prison, including over a decade on Death Row, Victor Safforld, one of scores of African American men who have credibly claimed for years that they were tortured by convicted former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his associates into fabricating confessions to crimes, is now a free man.

Safforld walked out of Cook County Jail and into the arms of joyous family members in late September after Cook County Circuit Court Judge Clayton Crane overturned the second of his two wrongful murder convictions earlier this year. Crane had ruled that both convictions resulted from false confessions that Burge's underlings illegally extracted by torturing Safforld and ordered new trials for Safforld in both cases.

Following that ruling, in May 2010, Safforld agreed to plead guilty in one of the two murder cases in exchange for an agreed sentence that would result in his release from prison this September.

As Safforld begins a new life, Burge awaits sentencing for his conviction on charges related to nearly three decades of systematic torture at Area 2 and 3 police headquarters in Chicago. A jury convicted Burge of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges in June.

There are an additional 24 men still behind bars who, like Safforld, credibly claim that they too were convicted based on confessions extracted from them through torture. Locke Bowman, Legal Director of The Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, said his organization believes that each of these men deserves a full and fair hearing into his claim of torture and plans to engage in advocacy to achieve those hearings.

Updated - 09/27/2010

Stage Set for Burge Torture Victim to be Freed from Wrongful Imprisonment

Weeks before indicted former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge faces trial in connection with his systematic torture of African-American suspects, one of his victims, Victor Safforld, reached an agreement with prosecutors that will soon end his 20-year trauma behind bars for crimes he didn't commit.

Prosecutors offered to drop charges against Safforld for the murder of Delvin Boelter in exchange for his guilty plea in another murder. Safforld, formerly known as Cortez Brown, was wrongfully convicted of both killings after Burge and his underlings tortured him into confessing to the murders.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Clayton J. Crane nullified both convictions and condemned the unlawful acts of the police, setting the stage for new trials in both cases. Last week, Safforld acquiesced with the plea deal in order to obtain his freedom after two decades of wrongful imprisonment.

"Having endured 20 years of gross injustice behind bars, Victor's freedom was priority number one," said Locke Bowman, Legal Director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, which with attorneys Flint Taylor, Joey Mogul and Sarah Gelsomino of the People's Law Office represent Safforld. "Awaiting and enduring two murder trials would have prolonged the agony of a man wrongfully imprisoned, so Victor did the right thing for himself and those who love him, by regaining the freedom he should have never been forced to relinquish."

During the 20 years that Safforld languished in prison, the sordid details of Burge's 30-year ring of torture came to light, thanks to persistent media scrutiny. The scandal led to episodic - and sometimes faulty - investigations by police and special prosecutors before the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago charged Burge last year with perjury for a false statement he made about his actions to investigators. The perjury trial will begin on May 24, 2010.

Updated - 05/24/2010

Second New Trial Awarded in Safforld Wrongful Murder Case

For the second time in a year, a Cook County Judge has voided a wrongful conviction of Victor Safforld, a victim of the 30-year torture spree orchestrated by indicted Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Earlier this month, Cook County Judge Clayton Crane nullified Safforld's conviction in the 1990 murder of Devin Boelter, ruling Burge's subordinates had illegally tortured Safford into falsely confessing to the crime. Judge Crane concluded that his decision was compelled by his ruling last year invalidating Safforld's wrongful conviction in the 1990 murder of Curtis Sims.

Both convictions stemmed almost exclusively from the confessions that Safforld fabricated after Burge's underlings bludgeoned him with a flashlight and their fists. Safforld, formerly known as Cortez Brown, was given the death penalty for the Sims murder, a sentence that was commuted to life in prison in 1991. Safforld remains in an Illinois penitentiary today.

Crane's rulings order new trials for Safforld in both cases and negate the false confessions that were a primary basis of his convictions.

"This decision affirms again the critical importance of re-examining each and every one of the convictions that rests in whole or in part on a confession claimed to have been induced by torture or physical abuse by Burge's henchmen," said Locke Bowman, Legal Director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, which with attorneys Flint Taylor, Joey Mogul and Sarah Gelsomino of the People's Law Office represent Safforld.

Safforld's case parallels the pattern in the wrongful convictions of countless other African-American men who were imprisoned - and in many instances remain there -- after succumbing to a spree of torture that Burge and his henchmen perpetrated from the early 1970s into the late 1990s.

Burge is scheduled to face trial on May 24, 2010 on charges that he perjured himself during statements he gave to investigators examining the atrocities that occurred Area 2 and 3 headquarters of the Chicago Police Department.

Updated - 04/19/2010