CITY HALL — A City Council committee moved to approve a $10 million settlement for a torture victim of notorious Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge Friday.
The committee signed off on the settlement to Eric Caine, who served a quarter century in prison on a life sentence for what the courts determined was a false conviction after being compelled to confess to the crime through torture. The settlement is expected to be confirmed by the full City Council Wednesday.
"In many of these Burge cases, we've concluded the best course of action is to settle," said Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton. "There's no easy solution to these, and they're not cases we can just ignore."
Patton said there were 10 Burge cases. Eight were inherited from the Daley administration, while two were filed in the last two years. The Caine settlement would leave three pending.
The Caine suit stemmed from a 1986 murder robbery. Burge was named as defendants along with Chicago Police officers James Pienta, Raymond Madigan, William Marley, William Pedersen, Daniel McWeeny and the city. According to Patton, all are "long retired," and all cited the 5th Amendment, undercutting any city defense.
"Legally, you are responsible for what they did," he said, adding that the risk of contesting the case further in court was a "very large jury verdict." As it is, he added, they had negotiated down from Caine's original demand for $25 million in compensation.
According to Patton, Caine was fingered by fellow Burge torture victim Aaron Patterson in a 1986 robbery double murder. Patterson was tortured in confessing to the murders and said Caine was involved in the robbery.
Caine too was tortured, suffering a broken eardrum after a punch to the side of the head, which Patton said is the first actual evidence of physical torture in any of the Burge cases. He was treated, and Patton said the doctor would testify that he believed the injury was brought on by torture. Patton also said police were informed of the actual murderers, but concealed the evidence.
According to Patton, Patterson was sentenced to death row and was eventually pardoned by Gov. George Ryan, but because Caine was serving a life sentence for felony murder, participating in a robbery that produced a murder, he actually served eight more years than Patterson. Patton said he was assaulted in prison and attempted suicide multiple times. He said the 47-year-old continues to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
After his release, Caine received a certificate of innocence in Cook County Circuit Court.
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago cop, called the Caine case an "atrocity."
Patton said the city would continue to work through the cases, adding, "We've gotta eat the elephant one bite at a time."
Burge is serving a four-year prison term for lying about the torture under his watch.