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Burge and nemesis Flint Taylor spar in video depositions in Jackie Wilson case


Jackie Wilson at a court hearing earlier this year | Pool photo by Zbigniew Bzdak for the Chicago Tribune

Lawyers for Jackie Wilson on Tuesday closed out their case that detectives under the command of Jon Burge tortured Wilson into confessing to the 1982 murder of two Chicago Police officers, in Wilson’s latest bid to win a new trial for the killings.

A courtroom gallery filled with CPD officers looked on as Wilson was cross-examined by special prosecutors at the second of what will be a trio of hearings on whether Wilson’s confession to the slaying of CPD officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien was tortured out of him.

On Tuesday, as he did at an earlier hearing last month, Wilson choked up on cross-examination, as he repeated his recollection of being beaten by multiple officers until he confessed to the murders, as special prosecutors who tried to trip him up on details. Wiping his eyes, Wilson, 57, took issue with Special Prosecutor Michael O’Rourke skipping steps in Wilson’s account of the abuse when O’Rourke jumped from Wilson being clubbed with a phone book directly to being hooked up to an electroshock box.

“They beat me over the head with dictionaries, a telephone book, put guns in my mouth. Then they brought in the electric shock,” Wilson said, his face pained. “It’s just upsetting judge, I’m reliving things.”

Judge William Hooks set a third, and likely final, day of testimony in the case for Jan. 30.

Jackie Wilson and his brother, Andrew Wilson, were convicted of killing Fahey and O’Brien, and both times sentenced to life in prison. Andrew Wilson died in prison in 2007. Jackie Wilson won a new hearing on his motion to suppress his confession after the state Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission in 2015 found his allegations of torture were credible.

If Wilson’s confession is tossed, it could make it difficult for prosecutors to fend off an all but certain motion for a new trial. Absent the confession, winning a guilty verdict for Wilson — who already has twice been convicted of murder in the shooting of Fahey and O’Brien — might also be difficult.

Allegations of torture by Wilson and his brother and co-defendant Andrew Wilson were among the first to draw public attention to long-circulated rumors of torture by Area 2 detectives, abuses that would lead the creation of a statewide torture commission and see Burge sent to prison, albeit for perjury, not specific acts of torture.

Jackie Wilson listens to a taped deposition of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge at a hearing on Jan. 16, 2018, to determine whether Wilson was beaten into confessing his role in a the fatal shooting of two officers in 1982. Burge repeatedly declined to answer questions. Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

Burge made a videotaped appearance at the trial, in excerpts from depositions from 2004, 2011 and 2016. The veteran detective says little more than “I assert my 5th Amendment rights” to dozens of questions, turning each video into a one-sided recitation of the claims against Burge by Flint Taylor, the civil rights lawyer who has dogged Burge since the 1980s.

The first deposition was filmed before Burge had been charged with perjury for denying knowledge of torture at Area 2. The second was filmed at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. In the third, Burge seems to chafe at having to recite his 5th Amendment shield in response to questions from Taylor. Despite the hose trailing from Burge’s nose to an oxygen tank that chirps periodic alarms, the detective glared at Taylor when he wasn’t staring straight into the camera.

“He’s making assertions here that are totally false and I don’t want to answer those questions,” Burge said at one point during the 2016 deposition, scowling into the lens. “But I’m sitting here, marveling,”

Later, Burge and Taylor sparred over a statement and emails Burge purportedly exchanged with Martin Preib, a CPD officer and current FOP vice president who has written a book and blogs skeptically about wrongful conviction cases. Preib had attended most of the day’s testimony, but had left shortly after the depositions were played.

Burge chuckled as Taylor noted the detective claimed in his statement that Taylor and other lawyers had worked to free “vicious criminals” that Burge had locked up, and that Taylor was making money off exonerated clients.

“Do you find it humorous?” Taylor asked.

“I certainly do,” Burge said.

“Do you find it humorous that Taylor and others have worked to free the innocent that you have put behind bars by torture?” Taylor asked.

“I exercise my 5th Amendment rights,” Burge said.