What happen when you hold a trial and the police are the ones who take the Fifth? That question was answered by Cook County Circuit Judge Clayton Crane who ordered a new trial for Gangster Disciple member Cortez Brown, who alleged that he was forced to confess during beatings in custody.
The case is now 20 years old and Brown is now 38. His death sentence was commuted by former state Gov. George Ryan to life imprisonment.
Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge now lives in Florida and told a judge that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent. There was a defense claim that Burge waived his fifth amendment privilege by making a statement at the hearing, but he was relieved of having to return to Illinois.
Cortez changed his name in prison to Victor Safforld and says that in September 1990 detectives handcuffed him to a wall punched, slapped, and beat him with a flashlight until he confessed to murder.
The court clearly did the correct thing in ordering a new trial. The prosecutors are less commendable in their efforts to avoid such a hearing for years. It will now be interesting if they insist on retrying the case without the statements. Given the passage of time and the loss of the statement, it will be a difficult case to try. Often in such abuse cases, detectives do not work the case fully once they have the suspect and beat out a confession.
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