Former inmate’s lawsuit probes police

Sheila Burt

Former death row inmate Aaron Patterson’s recent filing of a $30 million federal lawsuit could publicly expose past faults of the Chicago Police Department and allow other exonerated inmates to gain compensation, officials at Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions said this week.

Patterson, one of four death row inmates exonerated by former Gov. George Ryan in January, claims in the suit that Chicago Police, led by former police Cmdr. Jon Burge, tortured him into confessing by placing a plastic typewriter cover over his head. The lawsuit also alleges that Cook County prosecutors covered up the abuse.

Patterson spent 17 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in 1989 of murdering a South Side couple. Burge was fired in 1993 for his role in torturing another murder suspect.

Patterson and his lawyer, Flynt Taylor, could not be reached for comment. But in a press conference Patterson said that his case hinges on “torture” and “on the cover-up of exculpatory evidence that I did not commit this crime,” according to the Associated Press.

A spokesman for the Cook County Attorney’s Office told the AP that Patterson’s claims of an abuse cover-up are baseless.

“We will vigorously defend our prosecutors against these allegations,” he said.

NU journalism Prof. David Protess, who teaches an investigative journalism class that helped prove Patterson’s innocence, said the evidence he and his students obtained was “overwhelming” and showed other instances of abuse by the Chicago Police.