After spending more than 16 years in prison, including 13 years on death row, Madison Hobley may finally begin to get the justice denied him by the City of Chicago and a ring of allegedly corrupt and brutal police officers. Hobley's attorneys filed a wide-ranging federal civil rights suit late yesterday against the City of Chicago and current and former Chicago Police officers Jon Burge, Robert Dwyer, James Lotito, Daniel McWeeney, John Paladino, Virgil Mikus and Patrick Garrity.
Hobley's attorneys filed a wide-ranging federal civil rights suit late yesterday naming the City of Chicago and current and former Chicago Police officers Jon Burge, Robert Dwyer, James Lotito, Daniel McWeeney, John Paladino, Virgil Mikus and Patrick Garrity.
Hobley was one of 13 African American men who ended up on Illinois' death row thanks to tortured "confessions" organized by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Dozens more police torture victims were sentenced to long term sentences, many of them criminally prosecuted by then-Cook County States Attorney Richard M. Daley, and his then-assistant, current Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine.Â While Daley and Devine were not responsible for Hobley's prosecution, the fact that many of the Burge tortures happened on their watches helps explain the many years Hobley and others have had to wait to get justice.
Lawyers for the firm Loevy and Loevy and Andrea Lyon of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases of the DePaul College of Law charge police with:
* Torturing Hobley over the course of an entire day, suffocating him, beating him, using racist language and threatening him repeatedly in order to get him to falsely confess to murder and arson;
* Manufacturing a phony oral confession when even their tortures couldn't induce him to sign a written confession;
* Covering up information pointing to a likely murder suspect, while railroading Hobley for the crime;
* Suppressing and destroying key physical evidence which would have helped exonerate Hobley;
* Planting physical evidence in an attempt to frame him; and,
* Tainting witnesses by pressuring them to falsely name Hobley in line-ups -- the "witnesses" have since recanted and said they were pressured by the police to give false or misleading testimony.
Hobley was convicted of the January 6, 1987 murder by arson of his wife, child, and five others. But investigations by Amnesty International and the City's own Goldston Commission confirmed the systematic tortures conducted at Burge's Area 2 Police Headquarters over a period of decades. After years of public pressure, the City reluctantly fired Burge in February 1993. While in private practice, Dick Devine represented Burge in an attempt to save his job and pension, but has refused to recuse himself from subsequent Burge-related legal matters and stonewalled many of these proceedings.
Thanks to an investigation by Lyon and Attorney Kurt Feuer, Hobley was proven innocent and shown to be a police torture victim. Lyon's and Feuer's efforts eventually led to a full pardon for Hobley on January 10, 2003 by then-Governor George Ryan.
The extent of the crimes committed by police and covered up by the City hierarchy point to a potentially huge verdict against the City and officers.
"In addition to suffering extreme physical pain and discomfort from the beatings and other physical abuse he experienced at the hands of the Defendant Officers, Mr. Hobley has suffered enormous mental anguish and emotional distress," reads the suit. "After losing his family under the most tragic of circumstances, Mr. Hobley then had to bear the loss of his freedom and the indignities of prison and death row despite his innocence. Moreover, he had to do so while mourning his wife and infant son's death with a death sentence hanging over his head, a sword of Damocles poised to finish the destruction of him and his family. The Defendant Officers not only framed him for killing his family, they tried to kill him.
"This travesty of justice ran its course because the City of Chicago turned a blind eye to the wave of police corruption in Area 2 which gave rise to this and other wrongful convictions. Unfortunately, Mr. Hobley was not the first to accuse Lotito or Dwyer - members of Burge's now-infamous Area 2 Violent Crimes Division team - of police torture.
"In fact, there was a pattern and practice of torture of suspects by Area 2 Violent Crimes detectives during the relevant time period, as supported by many official findings by internationally recognized experts in torture and abuse, investigative agencies, administrative tribunals, and state and federal court judges and juries. Even the [Police] Department's own Office of Professional Standards ("OPS") was forced to conclude in November of 1990 that the physical abuse at Area 2, which included 'psychological techniques and planned torture,' was 'systematic,' 'methodical,' and that police command members, including Jon Burge, 'were aware of the systematic abuse and perpetuated it either by actively participating in same or failing to take any action to bring it to an end.' By failing to adequately punish and discipline prior instances of misconduct, [the Police Department] thereby lead[s] Chicago Police Officers to believe their actions will never be scrutinized and, in that way, directly encourage[s] future abuses such as those affecting Mr. Hobley."
The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network is assisting Mr. Hobley and the law firm of Loevy and Loevy by organizing court watch and publicity for the case.