A Black man who spent almost 30 years in jail for murder before being exonerated last year has filed a lawsuit against members of the Chicago Police Department, Cook County, and the city of Chicago, saying that he was beaten and tortured into signing a false confession by police. The alleged torture occurred when Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge was in charge, despite the fact that the suit names his estate.
The action was launched during a news conference on Tuesday by Keith Walker, now 53, and his attorneys, according to the Chicago Tribune. Attorney Sean Starr said, “Today, Keith is seeking a small measure of justice.”
“I believe that everyone in the world should be aware that these folks are still out there,” Walker stated. “I’m looking for justice. I’m filing this case today to seek justice for those who treated me unfairly — as if I weren’t a human being.”
Burge died in 2018, but it is suspected that during the 1970s and 1990s, his “midnight crew” of cops and detectives tortured more than 100 persons, predominantly Black men, under his direction in order to get false confessions. Victims claimed they were suffocated and forced to play Russian roulette after being subjected to mock lynchings, electroshock, beatings, and burning. Burge received a four-and-a-half-year sentence for lying under oath in civil litigation related to the torture.
In 2016, the city of Chicago made a $5.5 million payment to 57 Burge torture victims.
Another Black man was released in 2019 after spending 29 years in prison and telling horror stories similar to Walker’s.
Shawn Wicks, a white 18-year-old, was shot four times on the south side of Chicago in a predominantly Black neighborhood on June 3, 1991, after he resisted a robbery attempt while buying marijuana. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, he died a week later.
A man informed Chicago Police Detective Daniel McWeeny that he, Wicks, and Walker, 23, were on their way to buy marijuana when Wicks was shot, and he and Walker escaped. Walker was apprehended and sent to Area 3 police station, where he claims he was tortured. Officers allegedly called Walker the N-word, assaulted him, and shocked him four times with a hand-cranked generator, according to Walker.
On July 2, Walker was detained and subjected to the second round of torture before signing a pre-written confession statement. He then claimed that if he didn’t participate, he would continue to be abused. In connection with Wicks’ killing, Walker and two other men were charged with first-degree murder and attempted robbery. In December 1994, he was found guilty on the charges and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of release.
Walker’s appeal for relief on the grounds of actual innocence and the use of coerced confession against him was heard in the courts by 2004, but it wasn’t until 2020 that prosecutors with the state attorney general’s office — which had taken over the case from Cook County after the office’s recusal — decided to drop the case, and Walker was exonerated in August.
The lawsuit says that Chicago cops and prosecutors faked and suppressed evidence, as well as concealing knowledge of the abuse. “Not only is there no justice for the victim and the victim’s family when someone is convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but a man’s life is essentially destroyed, having the prime of his life kidnapped and thrown into a maximum-security prison,” said Jon Loevy, one of Walker’s attorneys. “On the issue of wrongful convictions, the judicial system needs to improve, and Mr. Walker needs justice in this case.”
Walker stated that he wants the cops who abused him to be punished, but that the lawsuit is not about money.
Walker explained, “Money comes and goes.” “However, you don’t.”