Cost of Burge-Era Torture Grows as Chicago City Council Agrees to Pay 2 Wrongfully Convicted Men $14M

More than three years after disgraced Chicago police commander Jon Burge died — and 28 years after he was fired from the Chicago Police Department — the cost of his legacy of torture and misconduct continues to grow.

The Chicago City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to pay $14 million to two men who spent a combined 43 years in prison after being convicted of a 1989 murder based on confessions coerced by Chicago police detectives trained by Burge.

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“The City of Chicago continues to face the consequences of being the false confession capital of the United States,” the lawyers for Kevin Bailey and Corey Batchelor said in a statement. “In the 1980s and 1990s Chicago police detectives throughout the city used torture and physical abuse to coerce confessions from Black and Latino suspects without regard to guilt or innocence, and they did it with impunity because no one in the police department cared enough to put a stop to it.”

Kevin Bailey and Corey Batchelor were 19 when they were arrested and convicted of the murder of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago police officer, who was found stabbed to death in her South Side garage in June 1989.

Bailey and Batchelor were exonerated in 2018 after Cook County prosecutors dropped the charges against the two men. Bailey spent 28 years in prison, while Batchelor spent 15 years in prison before being freed. 

“I'm glad I can put this lawsuit behind me, but these detectives took 28 years of my life,” Bailey said in a statement released by his lawyer. “I'll never get that time back and no amount of money could ever compensate me for what I've lost.”

The detectives investigating Woods’ murder had trained under Burge and have been accused of abuse in multiple convictions, attorneys for Bailey and Batchelor said.

City officials have acknowledged that Burge tortured and beat more than 100 Black men, from the 1970s to the 1990s. Chicago taxpayers have now paid $130 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments related to Burge's conduct, including $5.5 million in reparations for torture survivors, approved in 2015 by the Chicago City Council.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she did not immediately know whether the settlement approved Wednesday by the City Council would be the last tied to Burge’s conduct, which she said was criminal.

“We have paid as a city, as taxpayers, an unbelievable heavy toll for his crimes,” Lightfoot said. “These payments are obviously of great concern to me.”

Lightfoot said the city must address that which has been done by police officers when valid claims are filed.

Fired by the Chicago Police Department in 1993, Burge was convicted of perjury in 2010. Released from prison in 2014, Burge died four years later at the age of 70. He never faced criminal charges related to his time as an officer, and collected a pension from the city of Chicago until the day he died.

Wednesday's approved payment is equivalent to 17% of the city’s entire 2022 budget for police misconduct settlements.

In separate actions, the City Council voted 31-18 to pay $425,000 to Dejuan Harris, who was shot three times by an officer during a 2016 foot chase and 41-7 to pay $115,000 to Bernard Grayer and Marquinyelle Holt to resolve the lawsuit they filed alleging that they were wrongfully arrested after police officers found a gun.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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