CHICAGO – Chicago continues to pay out millions to settle lawsuits stemming from notorious former Police Cdmr. John Burge.
City Council unanimously approved a $14 million settlement on Wednesday to two men who spent decades in prison before having their convictions overturned stemming from Burge’s involvement. Two unrelated settlements were also approved by narrow votes and a third was rejected in committee Monday.
Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey were convicted for the 1989 murder of a retired Chicago Police officer’s wife, but their convictions were overturned in 2018 after the Illinois Torture and Relief Inquiry Commission alleged their convictions were based on forced confessions stemming from interrogations under Burge.
Batchelor and Bailey served a combined 43 years in prison before their convictions were later overturned due to new DNA evidence that exonerated them, The Daily Line reported.
Although Burge had moved to a different police district by the time the two men were interrogated, they both maintained they were tortured by officers in the district Burge had previously reigned before confessing to the murder, according to the Sun Times.
The large settlement represents 17 percent of the $82 million Chicago budgeted for police settlements and judgements in 2022.
Burge was fired by the police department in 1993 and later sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison for lying under oath about police torture. Burge died in 2018. Chicago and Cook County taxpayers had paid almost $140 million in settlements, judgements, reparations and legal fees tied to Burge as of 2019, according to the Sun Times.
Three smaller proposed settlements drew backlash from alderpeople this week, including one that the Finance Committee rejected Monday.
The Finance Committee voted 13-13 not to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Lenora Bonds, the mother of Terrence Harris, who was shot and killed by Chicago Police officers in 2013 who were responding to a 911 call that the man was suffering from a mental health episode and wielding two knives.
Bonds did not allege excessive force in the lawsuit, but instead said the Police Department lacked sufficient crisis intervention training for police officers at the time.
City attorney Victoria Benson told the committee police officers shot Harris 29 times. Harris had stabbed a Police sergeant who responded to the emergency call with a knife, but was alone in the basement of the home when officers shot him, according to the Tribune.
Benson told the committee the city could be forced to defend the specifics of its crisis intervention training if the case were to go to trial and could open up the city to a larger payment to Bonds.
Because Bonds was no longer in the house when officers shot her son, “the question will be if it was necessary for them to have done so at that time, given that the individual who had called for police had exited the home,” Benson told the committee, according to the Tribune.
Another $425,000 payment was approved in a 31-18 vote Wednesday to settle a lawsuit brought by Dejuan Harris, who was shot by police in 2016. The circumstances of the shooting are under dispute, causing some alderpeople to say they sided with Chicago Police officers.
Alderpeople voting against the settlement were Alds. Pat Dowell (3rd), Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), George Cardenas (12th), Marty Quinn (13th) Ed Burke (14th) Raymond Lopez (15th), David Moore (17th), Derrick Curtis (18th), Matthew O’Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Gilbert Villegas (36th), Nick Sposato (38th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), James Gardiner (45th) and Debra Silverstein (50th).
A third settlement of $115,000 was approved in a 40-9 vote to two brothers who were arrested in 2018 on gun charges that were later dropped. Alds. Beale, Tabares, Ariel Reboyras (30th), Felix Cardona (31st), Napolitano and Gardiner voted against the settlement.
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