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Vol. 76/No. 4      January 30, 2012

Chicago: family demands truth
about hangings in cop custody
(front page)
CHICAGO—The family of Develt Bradford, who ostensibly committed suicide while in police custody, filed suit Dec. 27 against the city of Chicago for wrongful death and negligence, charging that police failed to protect his safety.

On Nov. 17, Bradford, 52, was found hanged while detained at Area 2 of the Chicago Police Department. Three days later, another detainee, Melvin Woods, 62, was found hanged in his cell at the same police station. Both men were Black.

“I’m very sad. I’m very disappointed in the way that my son had to go. I just want to know what really happened,” Bradford’s mother said at a Dec. 28 press conference. She was flanked by her attorneys, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and Mark Clements of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

“If the Chicago police did no wrong, let’s find that out,” said Sam Adam Jr., attorney for the Bradford family. “But let’s have an independent authority. What we do not need is 15 years from now to be readdressing this like we had to do with Jon Burge.”

Burge was a police commander in Area 2 in the 1980s. Detectives under his command tortured false confessions from dozens of men, mostly African-American. The confessions were used in frame-up trials, including some that ended in death sentences. A federal jury convicted the former police chief in 2010 for lying about the torture. He is serving a four-and-half year prison term.

Adam questioned whether the video cameras covering the cells in which Bradford and Wood died were functioning at the time of their deaths.

“If I’m wrong and there is a video, let them show it to the family’s lawyers, or better yet to federal investigators,” Adam said, calling on U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to open a case.

Attorney Victor Henderson said an internal police investigation was not acceptable, given the Burge history at Area 2. “Why were the cameras off? How long were they in custody? Let’s see the clothes that they allegedly hung themselves [with]. Let’s have some forensic tests, have some blood tests,” he demanded.

Davis also called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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