Jon Burge case fallout: Chicago convicted killer gets new trial
Judge rules Burge's detectives likely beat Victor Safforld into confessing
By Matthew Walberg
May 23, 2009
A Cook County judge ordered a new trial for a convicted murderer Friday after finding three Chicago police detectives once supervised by disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge likely beat him into confessing.
The ruling by Circuit Judge Clayton J. Crane could mean that if the Illinois attorney general's office presses ahead with the case it would have to do so without the alleged confession by Victor Safforld.
In announcing his decision, Crane said he took into consideration that the three detectives -- James O'Brien, still on the force, and Anthony Maslanka and John Paladino, both retired -- refused to testify in court, asserting their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Crane said he also had the benefit of reviewing their disciplinary histories, something the trial judge in 1992 did not have available.
"... I have a more complete history of the behavior of these detectives," he said. "That evidence is staggering. That evidence is damning."
A spokesman for the attorney general's office, which inherited about a dozen cases involving allegations of brutality by Burge and his detectives, said prosecutors were evaluating their options.
"We respect the judge's decision," said Robyn Ziegler. "Our goal all along has been and continues to be that justice is served by carefully reviewing the merits of these cases and presenting the facts to the court for a decision."
Attorneys for Safforld as well as his sister, Elaina, expressed hope the state will drop the murder charges against Safforld, who has spent nearly 20 years behind bars. "Innocent or not, this was a conviction that was wrongful," said attorney Locke Bowman.
Safforld, 38, also known as Cortez Brown, was convicted of two 1990 murders and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Safforld, an admitted former Gangster Disciple, alleged the detectives punched him, beat his legs and hands with a metal flashlight and slapped him in the head for a half hour until his will was broken.
Prosecutors questioned Safforld's credibility in part because he didn't immediately claim he had been beaten.
None of the detectives have been charged with criminal wrongdoing, but Burge is currently awaiting trial for perjury in federal court.
||Truth in Justice