Civil Lawsuit of Torture Survivor Michael Tillman Moves Forward

Michael Tillman and his co-defendant, Steven Bell, were arrested for murder in July of 1986 and tortured by two teams of Area 2 detectives working at the direction of Lt. Jon Burge and his “right hand man” John Byrne. Over a four day period, Tillman was repeatedly suffocated with a plastic bag, subjected to a crude form of waterboarding, brutally beaten, and burned with a cigarette lighter. As a result, he made false oral admissions that were used to wrongfully convict him. Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley approved the death penalty in Tillman’s case, but he was instead sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail.

Over the next two decades, People’s Law Office (PLO) lawyers uncovered a wealth of evidence which established that Burge, Byrne, and several other members of the teams that tortured Tillman and Bell were ringleaders in a twenty year pattern and practice of torture of African American men. In 2009, PLO filed a post-conviction petition on Tillman’s behalf, alleging that he was innocent, and that his admissions were a product of this pattern and practice of torture. After an exhaustive re-investigation, the Special Prosecutor agreed that Tillman’s case should be dismissed which it was in January of 2010. Tillman was then released from prison after serving 23 ½ years a crime he did not commit. The Chief Judge of the Criminal Division subsequently granted Tillman a certificate of innocence, and Tillman’s original trial judge made the unprecedented admission that convicting Tillman was a terrible mistake.

In July of 2010, PLO lawyers filed a federal civil rights damages case on Tillman’s behalf. In her precedent setting decision, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer decided in July 2011 that former Mayor Richard M. Daley could be held as a conspiring defendant in Tillman’s case. PLO lawyers then sought to depose Daley under oath, and after eight months of delay, and a motion to compel his testimony, in April of 2012, Daley’s lawyers finally agreed to produce him for deposition.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly stated that it was “time we end” the Chicago torture scandal and that the City was “working towards” settling Tillman and several other torture cases, the City has still not settled Tillman’s case, and the taxpayers continue to pay additional millions to defend Burge, Daley, and their alleged co-conspirators.

To read more about our work on Michael Tillman’s case and other cases like it, visit our Wrongful Convictions page and our page on Chicago Police Torture.

Recent media coverage of our work on Tillman’s case:

Daley Agrees to Answer Questions  Article by Annie Sweeney of Chicago Tribune from April 11, 2012

Daley to Answer Questions in Torture Case Story from NBC 5 “Ward Room” on April 10, 2012

Below is a story from Carol Marin of NBC 5 about People’s Law Office filing a motion to compel Daley to Testify

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Below is a story from ABC 7 about Daley having to be deposed