People’s Law Office Represents Markham Firefighter in False Arrest Case

Markham Firefighter Sues Chicago Cops for False Arrest

After a community cleanup in Englewood, volunteers end up in violent confrontation with dozens of cops.

November 15, 2018

On an April afternoon in 2017, 35-year-old Vairrun Strickland came to the intersection of 63rd and Ashland in Englewood with dozens of other people wearing black T-shirts and brandishing green, red, and black Black Liberation flags. As part of New Era Chicago, a community service and black empowerment group, Strickland and the others were there to clean up the neighborhood and mingle with residents. A firefighter with the Markham Fire Department who grew up in Englewood, he’d helped organize similar cleanup outings in other south- and west-side neighborhoods.

“We walk through the neighborhood with our New Era T-shirts and we pick up trash,” Strickland explained in a recent interview with the Reader. “While we’re doing that we make little chants to promote black love. We also go door-to-door and pass out literature to support black-owned businesses in the neighborhood.”

Nothing about that morning was unusual, he said. As the procession wound its way from block to block, kids and neighbors joined in to help pick up bottles and food wrappers from vacant lots. A police car trailed the group for the three hours they were out there—something that always happens during New Era’s outings, Strickland said, despite the group’s having asked the Chicago Police Department not to send escorts so as not to discourage engagement with local youth who might be wary of cops.

Read the full article in the Chicago Reader.

People’s Law Office is Pleased to Announce our new Associate, Christian Snow

Christian is a recent graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. During her time at Northeastern Christian was a chair of the Black Law Students Association, a Teaching Assistant, a Research Assistant, a Lawyering Fellow, and an elected SBA  representative for the Experiential Education and Assessment Committee. Additionally, she participated in the American Bar Association’s Judicial Clerkship Diversity program and was also awarded a Davis-Putter Scholarship. Prior to law school, Christian was a Resident in Social Enterprise, a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. She brings a wealth of experience in community organizing, including working with Street Level Youth Media and Assata’s Daughters around issues including access for young people, divestment from Black communities, bail reform, and prison and police abolition.

#NoCopAcademy Goes to Court to Compel the Mayor’s Office to Produce Withheld Emails Concerning $95 million Police Academy

Today, attorneys from the People’s Law Office representing the #NoCopAcademy campaign, presented a motion requesting the Honorable Judge Sophia Hall to both review records withheld by the Mayor’s Office and to order the Mayor’s Office to produce any records withheld in violation of the law.

The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the #NoCopAcademy campaign against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 million Chicago police academy. Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn submitted FOIA requests seeking relevant emails from key players in the development of the cop academy. The Mayor’s Office produced some messages, but indicated it was withholding emails sought by Glasco and Southorn – thus prompting this lawsuit.

The Mayor’s Office has now confirmed that it has withheld and/or redacted at least 27 emails about the new police facility and has offered little to no explanation as to why these emails have been withheld, even in the context of a lawsuit. The Mayor’s Office has also refused to say whether City employees used private email accounts to communicate about the new police academy.

The Mayor’s Office’s decision to withhold information from Glasco and Southorn, like its decision to construct a new multimillion dollar facility for Chicago police, has been cloaked in secrecy.  The lawsuit pushes for the kind of transparency the people of Chicago are entitled to when considerable amounts of taxpayer funds are being spent on a facility many believe is not necessary and counter-productive, as the City is in desperate need of funds for Chicago Public Schools and mental health clinics. Such transparency is also vital for the effort challenging the expansion of policing in Chicago, an effort embodied by the #NoCopAcademy campaign.

The #NoCopAcademy campaign is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, GoodKids MadCity, and several other organizations and is supported by 80 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visit https://nocopacademy.com

Historic Decision in Jackie Wilson Police Torture Case

On June 14, 2018, Cook County Judge William Hooks, in a historic 119 page opinion that he read from the bench, overturned the conviction of Jackie Wilson and ordered a new trial. That opinion can be found HERE. Jackie Wilson is represented by Flint Taylor and John Stainthorp of People’s Law Office, along with Elliot Slosar of Loevy and Loevy.

In 1982, Wilson was tortured by Chicago police detectives and forced to confess to being involved in the fatal shooting of two Chicago police officers. This tortured confession led to his conviction and imprisonment for over 36 years.

Judge Hooks’ ruling is the result of an evidentiary hearing that has continued over the past several months. During the hearing, Wilson took the stand and emotionally described the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of Area 2 detectives, including Jon Burge. Burge and the other detectives responsible for Wilson’s torture asserted their Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer any questions, and a voluminous record of the racist and systemic pattern and practice of Chicago police torture was also made part of the record.

Commenting on the ruling, People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor stated, “It was a courageous decision. It was the right decision, and it’s a decision that I think not only speaks to Jackie Wilson but all of the victims of police torture under the regime of Jon Burge.” Most significantly, it is the first time that a Cook County Criminal Court Judge has made detailed factual findings that document the decades long police torture scandal.

The latest chapter in this scandal implicates the Cook County Board and its “Special Prosecutor’s” Office that has continued to fight this case despite the overwhelming evidence that Judge Hooks has now adopted in his opinion. Upon hearing Special Prosecutor Mike O’Rourke – – whose law firm has already made more than $200,000 fighting the case – – – vow that he will immediately appeal the decision rather than abide by Judge Hooks’ award of a new trial, Taylor told the press that it “was well past time for the County Board and President Preckwinkle to stop this ‘pin striped patronage’ and demand that Special Prosecutor O’Rourke act in the interests of justice rather than at the beck and call of the Fraternal Order of Police, who has been calling the shots in Jackie’s case.

Judge Hooks will hear Wilson’s motion for a reasonable bond on Thursday June 21, 2018.

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For more information:

Statement Opposing SB 2562 – Increased Police Surveillance by Drone

The People’s Law Office has signed onto the below statement opposing SB 2562.

No Drone

We the undersigned organizations stand together in opposition to SB 2562. This bill would allow police to use drones equipped with facial recognition capabilities to spy on large public gatherings across the state of Illinois.

Increased surveillance of demonstrations and other public gatherings will make us all less safe because it intimidates and deters people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest, a necessary tool for holding elected officials accountable–especially in the age of Trump. If we want to build a more equitable world, the Illinois legislature must encourage political engagement, not scare our fellow Illinoisans away from its most elemental form: public gathering.

We are greatly troubled by the dramatic expansion of surveillance powers this bill would make available to Illinois law enforcement. The Chicago Police Department’s long history of violating the rights of protesters is well known and includes unlawful surveillance and targeted abuse of people working to make this a more just city for our most marginalized residents. Chicago police violence as exemplified by the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the murder of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in 1969 continues today. We need only look at the recent attempts by the Chicago police to interfere with protected First Amendment activity by the #BlackLivesMatter to be convinced that the Chicago police are not to be trusted with a legal tool that will allow them to invade personal privacy and impede political activity from the skies.  

We strongly encourage elected officials to oppose SB 2562 and the widespread use of surveillance technology by police.

Signed,

For more information on 2562, click here.

What You Can Do

PLO Files Lawsuit Demanding Mayor’s Office Release Information to #NoCopAcademy

Activists with the #NoCopAcademy campaign file suit against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 Million new CPD facility, including evidence that the DOJ report did not prompt the new facility construction.

Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn, of the #NoCopAcademy campaign, are filing a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit against the Mayor’s Office for refusing to disclose crucial emails and records regarding the early planning for the proposed $95 Million new police academy. They are represented by attorneys with the People’s Law Office, the full complaint can be viewed here.
https://nocopacademy.files.wordpress.com/…/nocopacademy-com…

“As a librarian and information worker who believes that people have the right to access and scrutinize city plans involving their communities, I’m dismayed to see that the Mayor’s Office continues to prioritize secrecy regarding a plan that will have a substantial impact on Black communities across Chicago,” says Erin Glasco, one of the individuals filing suit. “Even as Mayor Emanuel attempts to paint a picture of this new facility as the answer to the CPD’s problems since the cover-up of the Laquan McDonald murder, he is continuing the same practices which led to that scandal in the first place – secrecy and collusion with CPD.”

Glasco and Southorn filed numerous requests for information with the Mayor’s Office upon learning about the proposed new training facility, including their communications with key players in the cop academy including the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, the Office of Alderwoman Emma Mitts, and the Department of Planning and Development. While some information has been shared, critical e-mails and records are still being withheld. The documents released so far indicate evidence that the plans for the new facility were initiated four months before the Department of Justice report was released, debunking the Mayor’s justification for the facility since it was first announced in July of 2017.

Shubra Ohri of the People’s Law Office, who is one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said, “The Mayor’s refusal to provide full and complete information to the #NoCopAcademy campaign about developing a $95 million police training academy is a clear violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. We hope this lawsuit will help provide more transparency and government accountability concerning this massive misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

This afternoon’ lawsuit is in solidarity with young Black people in Chicago, who are trying to stop his new plan to construct a massive new training facility for Chicago Police. His plan to spend $95 million on a new, 32-acre police academy this year in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, has drawn criticism from communities across Chicago, including celebrities like Chance the Rapper. The #NoCopAcademy campaign in Chicago is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, and is supported by over 52 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visithttps://nocopacademy.com

 

Charges dropped in 1989 murder investigated by Chicago cops tied to Jon Burge

By: Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune.

Kevin Bailey admits that there were moments during his 28 years in prison that he lost hope he would ever be cleared of murder.

“But I just kept fighting,” he said with a smile moments after his release Tuesday afternoon from Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. “Just kept fighting.”

Hours earlier, with Bailey in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, a Cook County special prosecutor dropped charges against him and Corey Batchelor, who had been paroled in 2004. The two had long alleged that Chicago police detectives with ties to disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge had physically abused them into confessing to a brutal 1989 murder.

After Judge Alfredo Maldonado formally tossed out their convictions, Batchelor and Bailey, both 48, embraced in the courtroom.

Bailey then grinned, pumping his fists in the air as spectators in the courtroom applauded.

“I never, ever wanted to give up,” Batchelor, his voice at times emotional, later told reporters in the courthouse lobby. “At times, Kevin used to actually tell me that he was giving up, that he actually didn’t believe that we were ever going to get out. And all I did was motivate and motivate and motivate him, and let him know no matter what … the fight would continue.”

Batchelor and Bailey were 19-year-olds with no criminal history when they were arrested for the murder of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago police officer, according to court records. Woods was found stabbed to death in her South Side garage in June 1989.

Read the whole article here: Chicago Tribune 

7th Circuit Allows Malicious Prosecution Case to Proceed

A malicious prosecution case brought by a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her son will continue in district court after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the grant of summary judgment to the United States government.

After a fire destroyed her home and claimed the life of her 3-year-old son in June 1995, investigators with the Indiana Fire Marshal’s office decided Kristine Bunch had intentionally set the blaze. But when samples from Bunch’s home were sent to William Kinard, a federal forensic chemist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he determined no accelerants were present in the living room and boy’s bedroom, where the fire began.

According to Bunch, the investigators told Kinard they were not happy with the results of his report, so he agreed to fabricate findings and report that accelerants were found in the two central locations. Bunch was subsequently convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 60 years.

Read the whole article here: The Indiana Lawyer

Read the 7th Circuit Opinion Here.

Burge and nemesis Flint Taylor spar in video depositions in Jackie Wilson case

Lawyers for Jackie Wilson on Tuesday closed out their case that detectives under the command of Jon Burge tortured Wilson into confessing to the 1982 murder of two Chicago Police officers, in Wilson’s latest bid to win a new trial for the killings.

A courtroom gallery filled with CPD officers looked on as Wilson was cross-examined by special prosecutors at the second of what will be a trio of hearings on whether Wilson’s confession to the slaying of CPD officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien was tortured out of him.

On Tuesday, as he did at an earlier hearing last month, Wilson choked up on cross-examination, as he repeated his recollection of being beaten by multiple officers until he confessed to the murders, as special prosecutors who tried to trip him up on details. Wiping his eyes, Wilson, 57, took issue with Special Prosecutor Michael O’Rourke skipping steps in Wilson’s account of the abuse when O’Rourke jumped from Wilson being clubbed with a phone book directly to being hooked up to an electroshock box.

Read the whole article here: Chicago Sun-Times

On 48th Anniversary of Fred Hampton’s Murder, Rampant Surveillance of Black Liberation Movements Continues

American political and social activist and Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (1948 - 1969) raises his arms at the 'Days of Rage' rally, Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 1969. (Photo: David Fenton / Getty Images)

American political and social activist and Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (1948 – 1969) raises his arms at the “Days of Rage” rally, Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 1969. (Photo: David Fenton / Getty Images)

Monday, December 04, 2017

By Flint TaylorTruthout | Op-Ed

In August 1967, notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent out an urgent directive to all of his field offices under the file name “COINTELPRO-Black Nationalist Hate Groups.” It instructed “Racial Matters”(RM) agents to take aggressive — and highly illegal — actions to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black-nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters.” On March 4, 1968, exactly one month before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, another urgent Bureau-wide COINTELPRO directive from Hoover’s desk instructed RM Agents to devise COINTELPRO actions designed to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.”

On December 4, 1969 — 48 years ago today — RM agents in the Bureau’s Chicago office secretly congratulated themselves and hailed their “success” to Hoover for masterminding the bloody pre-dawn police raid that left Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) — and most certainly a rising “messiah” — and Peoria Panther leader Mark Clark dead, and several other young Panthers seriously wounded.

Read the whole article here: Truthout