Burge Trial: Former Police Chief wants to take the Fifth | WBEZ
Skip to main content

WBEZ News

Burge Trial: Former Police Chief wants to take the Fifth

On June 4th, behind closed doors with the press and the public barred, Judge Joan Lefkow ruled that former assistant state's attorney Larry Hyman and seven former Area 2 detectives could invoke their Fifth Amendment privileges rather than testify in Burge's defense. Attorneys for the eight men convinced the judge that their clients faced danger of self-incrimination if they were called to testify. But Judge Lefkow didn't rule on a similar plea from former Chicago police superintendent Leroy Martin, who boasted in 1987 that his police force was "the toughest gang in town." According to a source familiar with the arguments in Lefkow's courtroom, the judge said she would reserve ruling on Martin's claim until it became certain that the former superintendent would be called to the stand. Martin had been included in Burge's list of potential witnesses, but at that point his attorneys had not determined if they were going to call him. Martin was appointed superintendent by Mayor Harold Washington in November, 1987 and served until April, 1992. In 1983, four years before becoming superintendent, he served as Burge's commanding officer at Area 2. During his tenure there allegations of torture continued to mount. As superintendent in 1990, Martin received two Office of Professional Standards reports on torture at Area 2. One, written by investigator Michael Goldston, concluded that abuse had been systematic at Area 2, that it included "planned torture," and that command members had perpetuated it by either actively participating in it or by failing to take any action to bring it to an end. It was not clear whether Goldston was pointing a finger directly at Martin, but if he wasn't, it was a gesture in his general direction. The second report, written by investigator Francine Sanders, concluded that Andrew Wilson had been given electric shock and had been burned by Burge and officers under his command. Martin sat on the reports for more than a year as the date for his scheduled retirement steadily approached. On November 8, 1991, he finally filed formal charges with the Police Board seeking Burge's termination. Had he chosen to proceed criminally (referring the matter to county or federal prosecutors) instead of administratively (instituting what was in essence an employment fitness hearing), Burge might have been charged for the actual physical attacks on the victims before the statute of limitations for such a prosecution expired. Burge is not charged today with any physical attacks but rather with lying about them in civil suits. What's ironic about Martin's request to stand on his constitutional right to avoid self incrimination was that as police superintendent he favored cutting back on the rights preserved in the constitution. In 1991 he told Tribune reporters Robert Blau and William Recktenwald that he admired the way China handled criminals, sentencing drug dealers to death and providing minimal facilities in prisons. "The sanitary facilities are a bucket. The prisoners are given a bowl of rice and a Thermos bottle of tea. And then they`re locked down," he said. During a radio interview cited in Blau and Recktenwald's July 12, 1991 article, Martin said the U.S. Constitution was too concerned with suspect's rights and not concerned enough with law enforcement. "We need to take a look at it and maybe from time to time we should curtail some of those rights," Martin said. Prosecutors in Burge's case said today that they expect to finish with their case on Tuesday, after which Burge's attorneys will begin calling their witnesses. According to a source who has seen the latest list, Martin will not be called.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X