Taxpayers to pay $4 million to settle police torture claim

SHARE Taxpayers to pay $4 million to settle police torture claim

Shawn Whirl photo from Illinois Department of Corrections

Chicago taxpayers will spend $4 million to compensate a man who claims he was tortured into confessing to the murder of a cabdriver by a detective who had worked under convicted former Area 2 Commander Jon Burge.

Shawn Whirl spent nearly 25 years in prison for the 1990 murder of cabdriver Billy Williams. A father of three, Williams was shot in the head in his cab in the Far South Side’s Pullman neighborhood.

Whirl was 20 when he was arrested for the murder. He had been a passenger in Williams’ cab on the day of the murder. His fingerprint was found on the outside of the taxi.

Whirl claims that he was taken to Area 2 headquarters, handcuffed to a wall and tortured by Detective John Pienta, who had worked under Burge.

Whirl maintains that he was slapped in the face repeatedly and that Pienta dug a key into a leg wound he had before the torture began. He also claims the detective put a bag over his head to muffle his screams.

The alleged torture continued, even after Whirl confessed offering details being fed to him by the detective.

Whirl maintained his innocence even after pleading guilty to murder and armed robbery to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission breathed new life into Whirl’s torture claims after his initial appeals were denied.

In 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned Whirl’s conviction.

The appeals court ruled that Pienta had been involved in a “pattern of torture” and concluded that the case against Whirl was “non-existent” without the coerced confession.

A special prosecutor subsequently opted not to re-try the case. Whirl was released in October, 2015 after serving more than 24 years in state prison.

The $4 million settlement is one of two involving alleged police misconduct on the agenda at next week’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

The other settlement — for $750,000 — goes to the family of a 25-year-old man who was shot to death by police after a foot chase.

Police claimed Willie Miller pointed a gun at them during the chase, and they shot back in self defense.

Witnesses maintained that Miller had no gun. A gun found 15 feet away did not have Miller’s fingerprints.

Miller was shot to death in 2010.

Aldermen will also be asked to sign off on a $495,000 settlement to a former watchman for the Department of Fleet and Facilities Management.

George Ferguson accused the city of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Ferguson, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, slipped and fell at work in 2012 and said he remained on the ground for 30 minutes before getting medical assistance. He was not allowed to return to work.

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