The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a man who confessed to murder after he was tortured by the notorious Chicago Police Department detective Jon Burge cannot sue the city, since he already settled with it in 1988 for $3,000.
Darrell Cannon contended that he only confessed to the murder of a rival gang member after detectives in the employ of Burge played Russian roulette by placing what appeared to be a loaded shotgun in his mouth and applied an electrified cattle-prod to his penis and testicles.
Subsequent investigations of Burge and the detectives in his charge revealed a pattern of torture consistent with what Cannon claimed to have suffered. The disgraced former detective is currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence on charges of obstructing justice and perjury in civil suits related to the torture allegations.
When Cannon settled with the city in 1988 for $3,000 — which, after court and legal feels, netted him $1,300 — neither he nor his lawyer knew “that the abuse against African American men by Area 2 officers was pervasive and occurred with the complicity of Burge. They did not know that many of the same bizarre and sadistic techniques that these officers used against Cannon had also been used against many other African American men who had been arrested in Area 2. Despite their suspicions, Lanphier did not ask the city or the individual defendants about any other victims of the Area 2 officers.”
In the decision, Judge Ilana Rovner wrote that “Cannon essentially claims that he would not have settled his case if he had realized that better proof would be available in the future. If he had known that the officers were abusing others, he could have used that information to bolster his own credibility, which had been seriously damaged by his false confession and conviction for the murder of Darrin Ross.”
However, both Cannon and his lawyer strongly suspected that others were tortured in the same manner, and had they pursued those suspicions — as the lawyers who eventually uncovered the scandal did — they might have discovered other cases of torture.
“It is impossible to say whether additional discovery by Lanphier on Cannon’s behalf would have uncovered the broader police torture scandal that has now been brought to light,” Judge Rovner wrote. “But Cannon has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the reasonableness of his reliance on the officers’ false statements at the time he signed the 1988 Stipulation, especially in light of his failure to seek additional information in the original litigation.”
But, Judge Rovner concluded, “having never asked for the information about the torture of others, Cannon may not now claim that the settlement process was marred by a lack of information about the torture of others.”
The city of Chicago has paid out over $85 million in damages to other victims of torture at the hands of Burge and his underlings.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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