23 years ago, Michael Tillman confessed to a murder, rape, and kidnapping that he didn’t commit after he was brutally tortured. Yesterday he was freed from jail an innocent man.
Since he made that confession at 20 years old, Tillman has upheld his innocence and his accusations of torture. This type of wrong-doing is injustice at it’s worst and most gruesome:
He has long maintainted that, over three days in police custody, he was beaten with a phone book, punched in the face and stomach until he vomited blood, had a plastic bag put over his head and 7-Up poured into his nose in a crude form of waterboarding.
It’s a miracle that his confession held up at court, but it did despite knowledge of the torture allegations. It was the sole piece of evidence against Tillman and he was convicted to life in prison for it. Even after another man was convicted of the murder, Tillman remained in jail because the jury at his retrial found him guilty a second time. He also lost his appeal because the confession was determined “sufficient” enough evidence to keep him incarcerated.
Yesterday, Michael Tillman finally found justice when all charges against him were dropped and he became a free man. Tillman is not the first victim to speak up about the “reign of terror” of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge; Burge is said to have tortured up to 200 suspects while in charge. Burge awaits trial on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice after accusations from murder suspects throughout the 70’s and 80’s.
Unfortunately, problems like these are not obsolete in modern law enforcement. That’s why interrogations must be recorded, to ensure the safety of crime suspects and the reliability of their statements. Reform needs to happen sometime and it shouldn’t take 200 more tortured people to make them aware. I’ll end with this appeal from Matt Kelley of the Criminal Justice blog:
If the injustice suffered by Tillman makes you furious, do me a favor. Call your local police department. Ask if they record interrogations in felony cases. If not, urge them to make a change.