Alleged police-torture victim tastes freedom

Ex-inmate says he falsely confessed after cops under Burge beat him

By: Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune: March 18th, 2011

CHESTER, Ill. — After 25 years behind bars, Eric Caine walked out from behind the stark stone walls of Menard Correctional Center a free man Thursday, all smiles in the warm sun.

“Let me breathe the air,” he said, his big grin framed by a thin gray mustache. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”

Only hours earlier, Caine had learned that a Cook County judge had ordered his release, partly because of allegations that Chicago police detectives, led by disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge, beat him into confessing to a double murder he later said he did not commit.

Dressed in jeans and a striped shirt supplied by his lawyers, Caine, 45, blinked curiously at the cell phones in his direction. Someone told Caine the phones also took photos and video.

“Wow,” he said. “Oh, wow!”

Caine talked about his plans to gorge on oxtail stew, reunite with his family, and get back to Chicago to watch the White Sox play in a ballpark he has never seen.

As Caine enjoyed his first moments of freedom since 1986, Burge, 63, was spending his first full day at a federal prison in North Carolina. The former cop is starting a 4½-year sentence for lying in a civil lawsuit about his knowledge of torture under his command.

Caine was happy to hear about Burge but said he would like to see the two detectives involved in his case punished as well.

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