Appeals court orders new trials for man who claimed police tortured him into confessing to murders of two children in 1991

“An injustice never ceases to be an injustice until justice prevails,” the state appellate court concluded in a 64-page ruling in the case of George Anderson.

SHARE Appeals court orders new trials for man who claimed police tortured him into confessing to murders of two children in 1991
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David B Owens, attorney for George Anderson, speaks to members of the media after a judge denied a motion to give Anderson a new trial in 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A state appeals court has ordered new trials for a man convicted of the murders of two children in Chicago more than 30 years ago, ruling his claims of being tortured into confessing were credible given “the voluminous evidence of past police abuse.”

The appellate court ordered that George Anderson’s statements to police admitting to the murders of 11-year-old Jeremiah Miggins and 14-year-old Kathryn Myles cannot be used during the new trials.

Anderson has said he was kicked, punched and hit with a baton during an interrogation by Area 3 detectives working under disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge.

During 36 hours of questioning, Anderson confessed to the fatal shootings of Kathryn Myles in June of 1991 and Jeremiah Miggins two months later.

Anderson’s lawyers said his confessions were the result of beatings at the hands of Chicago police detectives who were named in many police torture cases and who had histories of soliciting false confessions.

The appellate court cited the backgrounds of those detectives in ordering the new trials, decrying that it took so long for the confessions to be thrown out.

“Anderson, now 60 years old, has waited over three decades for this day,” the court noted in its ruling handed down Monday. “For far too many of these victims of police brutality, delay has immeasurably deprived them of their liberty, compounded their suffering, impeded their healing.

“An injustice never ceases to be an injustice until justice prevails,” the court concluded in its 64-page ruling.

A lawyer for Anderson said Tuesday afternoon he had not yet talked to his client about the next steps in his case.

“This week’s order was great news,” said David Owens. “George Anderson is a person who’s been crying out since 1991 that he was abused by the police officers who are involved in interrogating him over the course of two nights, three days at the police station.”

Anderson was arrested days after Jeremiah was killed by a stray bullet during a shootout between rival gang members and signed confessions to the murders of both children.

Anderson later sought to suppress his statements, contending he was repeatedly kicked and punched by police and denied access to a lawyer. But the admissions were allowed into his trials.

He was found guilty in 1994 of the murder of Jeremiah and pleaded guilty to the killing of Kathryn. Anderson’s appeals were unsuccessful until he petitioned the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission in May 2011.

In an eight-page affidavit, Anderson said he was kicked while handcuffed and also slapped and punched before signing his statement in the Kathryn Myles case.

He also described how detectives put a telephone book on his left side and hit it several times with a pipe, and that he “experienced pain in his left side and blood in his urine in the following months.”

In agreeing his case should be reviewed, the commission noted that the detectives named by Anderson were accused by dozens of people of “physical abuse and coercion.”

In 2020, a Cook County judge refused to overturn the convictions, saying Anderson’s claims of abuse were a “failed attempt to paint himself as a victim” of police torture.

In a forcefully worded order, Judge William Hooks said Anderson’s claims weren’t backed up by evidence, likening Anderson to a bystander of a bus crash claiming he or she had been aboard the bus to take advantage of “deep pockets.”

Hooks said that Anderson had provided no medical evidence to show injuries from the alleged beatings. The judge also listed numerous findings that there was insufficient evidence of abuse of other suspects in other cases cited by Anderson’s lawyers.

But the appellate court said the judge “erred in ruling that none of the voluminous pattern and practice evidence was relevant. To the contrary, we find this new evidence was relevant and satisfied the defendant’s initial burden to show that it would likely have resulted in suppression of his statements.”

Burge was fired from the CPD in 1993. In 2011, he was sentenced to four years in federal prison for lying about the abuse of criminal suspects. Burge died in 2018.

Anderson’s lawyer said there are a number of officers directly involved in the case “who have never been held accountable for their actions.”

“It’s critically important that the courts and our public institutions take steps to rectify systemic injustice and wrong in a city like Chicago where there have been so many bad cops,” he said.

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