by Steve Bogira
The sentencing of Jon Burge is over, finally—but much still needs to be examined about the treatment of criminal suspects by authorities, John Conroy said afterward in the Dirksen Federal Building.
Conroy, who broke the story of police torture for the Reader and covered it for more than 20 years, was in the second row of judge Joan Lefkow's courtroom when she sentenced Burge to four and a half years. "I was glad I didn't have to make this decision," he said. Given Burge's ill health—he has prostate cancer—"For all we know this could be a death sentence for him—and I hate to see anybody die in prison. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in the community whose lives were very sorely affected."
The sentence brought Conroy no sense of relief or finality. "There are still 20 guys in prison on the basis of suspect confessions—so I don't feel like this is case closed." Many are seeking new hearings "and having a hard time getting them. I think that needs to happen." And there are other police officers who tortured suspects who have yet to be brought to justice, he said.
Conroy also voiced skepticism about how much has really changed: "I just don't think there's enough willingness on the part of law enforcement, media, and society at large to keep an eye on the guardians of public order."