Former prisoner says confession was beaten out of him
By: Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune: November 4th, 2015
More than two decades after his testimony helped send a South Side teenager to prison for murder, retired Chicago police Detective Michael Kill was back on a witness stand Tuesday, defending everything from his investigation techniques to his admitted use of the N-word.
Kill’s long-awaited testimony comes as part of an ongoing hearing before Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks, who is considering whether to overturn Anthony Jakes’ 1993 conviction, a step that could lead to a certificate of innocence and a lucrative wrongful conviction lawsuit down the road.
In three hours on the witness stand, Kill, a salty old-school cop who worked for a time under disgraced Cmdr. Jon Burge, didn’t back down under repeated questioning by Jakes’ attorney, who has alleged Kill beat and coerced a then-15-year-old Jakes into confessing he’d participated in the 1991 murder outside a sandwich shop near his Back of the Yards home.
Asked point-blank whether he had ever used the N-word, Kill, who is white, testified he’d grown up in a mixed-race South Side “project” and used the word to “communicate with people who were talking that way” to him. He also said he spent the majority of his police career working African-American communities where the term’s use was common.
“It does not shock my sensibilities to hear it,” said Kill, now 73, leaning forward on the witness stand with a scowl on his face.
The Tribune detailed Jakes’ story as well as Kill’s controversial history in a front-page report in September. While Kill has remained largely under the radar in media reports on the Burge police torture scandal, court records show he’s been accused of abusing suspects in at least 19 investigations, including the alleged electroshock torture of Ronald Kitchen in an infamous quintuple homicide investigation in 1988.
Jakes, who was released in 2013 after serving 20 years in prison, testified earlier this year that during questioning at the police station, Kill slapped him across the face, threatened to throw him out the third-floor window, tried to burn him with a lit cigarette and said he’d have Latin Kings who owed him a favor “jump” his family.
Kill also knocked Jakes out of his chair with a forearm and stomped on his back and midsection while he rolled on the floor, according to Jakes’ testimony.
By the time he signed a statement admitting he’d acted as a lookout in the murder, Jakes had been at the station for more than 16 hours without food or contact with a family member, according to his testimony.
Kill has previously denied laying a finger on Jakes at both the 1993 trial and in a 2008 deposition. He was never asked about the alleged abuse in questioning Tuesday. Instead, the questions focused on discrepancies in Kill’s previous testimony as well as his tactics as a detective at the old Area 3 headquarters on the city’s South Side.
At one point, Jakes’ attorney, Russell Ainsworth of the Chicago Exoneration Project, showed Kill a photograph depicting the lockup at Area 3 as it looked when Jakes was questioned. Above the door to the lockup was a photograph depicting two African-American fists clutching prison bars. Beneath the photo were the words, “Another Happy Ending.”
Asked if he remembered the photo, Kill peered at Ainsworth for several seconds, then said he couldn’t tell what color the person’s hands were in the image.
“Is it a black guy? I don’t know,” Kill said. “I know you’re upset. The picture probably shouldn’t be there.”
That exchange was just one of several testy moments for Kill, who seemed confused at times over the various reports and transcripts he was being questioned about. Kill also shot occasional one-liners at Ainsworth instead of addressing a question, prompting the judge to interrupt and order Kill to answer.
“This isn’t one of those ‘Why do you beat your wife’ questions, is it?” an exasperated Kill asked Ainsworth at one point. “If you want to throw mud pies at my reasoning, go ahead.”
Later, after Ainsworth had asked a question while looking down at a document, Kill threw his hands up and asked him sarcastically to keep his voice up.
“Excuse me, counsel, can I beg you to speak above a whisper?” Kill said. ” I’m an old man. I’m trying to hear what you’re saying because I’m sure it’s quite interesting, but when you turn your head and stick it in a cardboard box, I can’t hear you.”
Kill’s testimony was cut short after his lawyer told the judge he was experiencing some medical issues and needed a break. Hooks set the hearing to resume next month.