Appearing with Shackelford were Mark Clements and Wallace Gator Bradley, both well-known activists in the fight against police torturers and for release of those convicted based on coerced confessions.
Shackelford described how in October 1990 Chicago detectives, working under former Police Lieutenant Jon Burge, brutally interrogated Reed, who had been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Even though Reed had a metal rod in his leg and surgical pins in his knee as a result of a gunshot wound several years earlier, they handcuffed him “to a wall sitting in a chair and when he wouldn’t answer the way they wanted him to they kicked the chair out from under him,” Shackelford said. “They proceeded to beat him and kick him on his injured leg and in his back until the pain was so intense he would have said whatever they wanted.
“Since that incident 22 years ago police and prison officials have denied him surgery to correct the damage they did,” she said.
Burge is currently serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for lying about torture in the Chicago Police department, but the detectives whom Reed accuses of torturing him—Victor Breska and Michael Kill—have never been charged.
Now after 22 years behind bars for a crime he says he did not commit, Reed could be freed.
On June 18 the Illinois Torture and Relief Commission—a government body established in 2009 in response to the scandal around the Burge revelations—ruled in Reed’s case that “there is sufficient evidence of torture to conclude the Claim is credible and merits judicial review for appropriate relief.”
Reed’s case is the first of five the commission investigated before it closed in late June for lack of government funding. It is also the first to be reviewed in the Cook County court system.
Shackelford sat along with her supporters behind smoke-colored bullet-proof glass surrounding the courtroom of Associate Judge Thomas Gainer Jr., waiting for the case to be heard. The proceedings in the courtroom itself were barely audible.
Reed was not present at the hearing. His attorney, Andrea Lyon, appeared on his behalf and got agreement from the judge to set a new court date for Nov. 13 and to instruct officials at the Stateville Correctional Center where Reed is incarcerated to bring him to the hearing.
“The conclusions of the torture commission clearly show that Gerald Reed’s claim of torture—which he first made in 1992 when he tried to get his confession thrown out—is credible,” Lyon told the Militant after the hearing. “In fact the report clearly shows that not only was he coerced to confess, but other witnesses were coerced into giving false testimony against him.
“Without the confession and the false statements, the state has no evidence,” she said. “The court should free Gerald Reed now or at the very least order a new trial.”
The day before Reed’s case was heard the torture commission received a $160,000 federal grant to continue its operations. When it suspended investigations the commission still had 30 cases under review and another 80 waiting to be reviewed.
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