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Monday, June 14, 2010

Drama in Dirksen

Most of the attention is being paid to the trial of Rod Blagojevich however the Dirksen Federal Building in Downtown Chicago is full of drama these days. While Blago is going on, so too is the trial of former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. Burge is alleged to have tortured, or ordered the torture, of 200 plus victims from 1972-1992. In 2001, he denied these charges and he's now standing trial for perjury in relation to the matter. Today, a former police officer Michael McDermott was sceduled to testify for the prosecution. The belief was that McDermott was going to detail a beating that Burge put on a suspect. The courtroom was in for a surprise.

Former Chicago Police detective Michael McDermott's face reddened today as he repeatedly pushed back against federal prosecutors who ordered him to testify against his former boss, retired Cmdr. Jon Burge.

McDermott had told a grand jury that he witnessed Burge point a gun at robbery suspect Shadeed Mu'min's head in October 1985, and also saw Burge cover Mu'min's head with a plastic bag.

Under questioning from prosecutors today, McDermott said he was standing outside then-lieutenant Burge's office when he saw Burge and Mu'min briefly scuffle inside the small room.
"It was a brief struggle, 20 seconds or less," McDermott said. "I saw at one point Lt. Burge had something in his hands and he went across the face of the bad guy."


McDermott went on to say that Burge was one of the best police officers he'd ever worked for and that his prior Grand Jury testimony was taken out of context. The drama also played out in the Burge trial on Friday. A former gang member, Greg Banks, testified that his confession was tortured and here's how his cross examination played out.

Banks, who has been convicted of burglary, acknowledged he was a member of the Black Gangster Disciple street gang for 20 years and had been addicted to heroin for years until four years ago.

But the two sparred heatedly over the court-reported confession Banks gave after his arrest. As Gamboney pressed him about his statement, Banks alternately said he didn't remember or that the statement was a lie.

"If this is what happened, my case would have never gotten overturned and you know that," Banks shouted over Gamboney as he waved a copy of his statement in front of the jury. "I'm not going to let you sit here and make them believe it's true because you know it's not true. ... This is not true, so I'm not going to look at it."

"I know, it's all a pack of lies -- you were framed," said Gamboney, his voice thick with sarcasm.

There are still 22 people in prisons in Illinois identified to have had their confessions coerced by Jon Burge or a member of Burge's posse. Joan Lefkow, no stranger to tragedy herself, is the trial judge for this trial.

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