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Lawyers who defend police-torture victims in Chicago long ago reached a harsh conclusion about Cook County's criminal judges: most have a vested interest in refusing to acknowledge police brutality. Now these lawyers can point to a case so extreme it's almost funny: a judge who apparently ruled on his own performance as a prosecutor, deciding there was no taint to a confession that the judge himself had written. Judge Nicholas Ford passed judgment on assistant state's attorney Nick Ford. Ford had no problem with Ford's work.
According to the petition, three of the 50 judges were former Chicago police detectives and two of those had worked with the notorious former police commander Jon Burge; three other judges had previously defended the city in lawsuits alleging police brutality; and 16 judges were former assistant state's attorneys directly involved in the torture cases, men and women who'd either testified on Burge's behalf at police board hearings that led to his firing or who'd taken confessions allegedly coerced by physical means, prosecuted suspects whose statements of guilt were allegedly obtained by torture, or supervised the prosecution of defendants alleging electric shock, suffocation, attacks on the genitals, severe beatings, or other physical abuse at the hands of Burge's detectives.
And as no officer ever admitted to any coercion, those detectives presumably committed hundreds of acts of perjury. In how many of those cases did a skeptical judge suppress a confession because he or she felt it had been coerced? Zero. (Judge Earl Strayhorn once suppressed a confession for the "oppressive atmosphere" in which it was given, but he didn't conclude that physical abuse had taken place.) And not a single judge publicly recommended that any officer be prosecuted for giving false testimony under oath. Nor did the state's attorney's office prosecute a single officer for perjury, misconduct, or assault. And it's from the ranks of those prosecutors that most of today's criminal court judges have come.More than a decade after Conroy published this story, Judge Ford, and quite a few others with ties to cops who tortured people into confessions, are still on the bench. And, as you can see in my feature this week, he's still making questionable calls.