By: Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune: December 2nd, 2012
Some 30 years since he was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, Alton Lorgan will be back in a courtroom Monday looking for a measure of justice against one of Chicago’s most vilified police officials.
The trial stemming from Logan’s lawsuit marks the first time in two decades that Jon Burge, the disgraced former police commander, will be called to testify in court about one of the numerous civil lawsuits filed against him. Though he is expected to plead the Fifth Amendment, he will testify by way of videoconferencing from a federal prison in North Carolina, where he is serving a 41/2-year sentence for lying about torture and physical abuse by his crew of detectives.
Logan, though, isn’t alleging he was beaten into confessing to murder by Burge and his men, but rather that they concealed evidence, even from Cook County prosecutors, that would have exonerated him.
Coming just a few weeks after another federal trial exposed how a code of silence among Chicago police protects even wayward officers, Logan’s allegations are sure to reopen one of the most painful and shameful chapters in department history.
“The Police Department is probably cringing that this is coming,” Arthur Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, said of the expected two-week trial in the downtown Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. “This is going to be airing dirty laundry, but it is still their dirty laundry.”
The trial will recount Logan’s remarkable story of exoneration, one that includes a secret confession hidden away for a quarter of a century and links to one of the most infamous Burge cases — the torture of Andrew Wilson, who killed two Chicago police officers.
Though no physical evidence tied him to the murder, Logan was convicted of the 1982 fatal shooting of Lloyd Wickliffe, an off-duty county corrections sergeant who was working security at a South Side McDonald’s. He was sentenced to life in prison at 28.
In his lawsuit, Logan alleged that Burge and detectives under his command knew that when Wilson was arrested in the murders of Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien, he was in possession of a .38-caliber gun that had been stolen from Wickliffe in the moments before he was killed. Yet Burge and the detectives allegedly failed to disclose this critical evidence to Logan’s lawyer or even prosecutors.
In addition, witnesses told the detectives that Wilson had killed Wickliffe, according to court documents filed in Logan’s lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks damages from Burge and at least three detectives — George Basile, Thomas McKenna and Anthony Katalinic.
Logan sat in prison for 26 years until a stunning 2008 revelation after Wilson died. Wilson had confessed to Wickliffe’s murder to his own attorneys in 1982, but the lawyers were duty-bound by the attorney-client privilege not to go public with the admission until after his death.
The two criminal-defense attorneys, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, could also be called at trial to share that riveting part of Logan’s long wait for freedom.
“In serving more than 26 years behind bars, (Logan) was wrongfully deprived of nearly half of his life … stripped of the various pleasures of basic human experience,” his lawsuit says.
Since the Burge scandal has unfolded, dozens of African-American men have sued him and the city, alleging torture or physical abuse at his hands or that of the men who worked for him.
All but Wilson’s case settled short of trial, according to Flint Taylor, a civil rights attorney who has filed many of the suits and has tracked the litigation against Burge. And by his estimate, the city has paid out $30 million in damages to victims. In addition, the city has spent $16 million in legal fees on the Burge cases, he said.
“It is not just a political question but a moral question,” said Taylor, who is not involved in the Logan case. “Why is the city continuing to defend Burge? To make a spectacle of Burge from his prison cell to me is just continuing to highlight the fact that the city refuses to resolve these cases and finally get on the right side of history.”