Another Burge case, another $10 million
Tab for lawsuits over police torture nears $70 million
By: Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune: July 19th, 2013
Another former inmate has reached a proposed multimillion-dollar settlement with the city of Chicago after spending years in prison after being beaten into confessing by detectives working under disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, confirmed that the City Council Finance Committee is set to vote Friday on the $10 million settlement for Eric Caine, who was released from state prison in 2011 after serving 25 years for a double murder he did not commit.
The Caine settlement would bring the tab on Burge cases to nearly $70 million when legal fees are counted. So far this year, police misconduct lawsuits overall have cost the city at least $54 million.
At a news conference in late 2011 to announce the filing of his federal lawsuit, Caine said the litigation was as much about putting an end to police torture as it was about money.
”I can’t even put a number on the years I lost,” he said. “…There are no words in my vocabulary to express the pain that I felt.”
According to the lawsuit, Caine; now 47, falsely confessed to the 1986 murders of an elderly couple, Vincent and Rafaela Sanchez, after two detectives working for Burge punched and threatened him as he sat handcuffed to a chair in a South Side police station, rupturing his eardrum.
In 2003, Caine’s co-defendant, Aaron Patterson, was pardoned by then-Gov. George Ryan and freed from death row, but Caine, who was given a life sentence, languished in prison for years more – “an afterthought,” in his words.
Cook County Judge William Hooks threw out Caine’s confession in early 2011, and prosecutors dismissed the indictment after determining they could not go forward without the tainted confession as evidence.
On the day of Caine’s release from Menard Correctional Center on March 17, 2011, Burge was spending his first full day at a federal prison in North Carolina. He had been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison in federal court for lying in a lawsuit about his knowledge of police torture.
In his lawsuit, Caine’s lawyers alleged that a witness had come forward after the coerced confession and implicated a neighbor of the couple’s, but detectives allegedly threatened that the witness would “end up dead” if he didn’t stay quiet.
The neighbor is serving a 30-year prison sentence for a home invasion in which he repeatedly stabbed another neighbor, a crime that the lawsuit called “shockingly similar” to the Sanchez murders.
After his release, Caine told the Tribune in a series of interviews about his struggles to make ends meet.
Prosecutors for months fought Caine’s efforts for an “actual innocence” declaration – allowing him to recoup money from the state for wrongful imprisonment – on the grounds that he couldn’t prove he wasn’t involved in the killings.
In early 2012, a Cook County judge granted Caine’s innocence request, and Caine later received compensation of just under $200,000 for his 25 years behind bars.
Court records show his federal lawsuit had been set for trial at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse late last month but was delayed.
Records also show that Caine’s lawyers had been seeking an order to have Burge testify at the trial via a live video feed from the federal prison.