Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge announced in court Wednesday that he will take the stand at his federal trial to answer charges that he tortured or condoned the torture of suspects and later lied about it in a civil suit.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, who is presiding over the perjury and obstruction trial, called Burge to the bench to question him about his decision and remind him of his right not to testify.
"How are you holding up, Mr. Burge?" the judge asked.
"Marvelously," Burge said.
The announcement came after jurors had left the courtroom for the day following the first day of defense testimony.
Marc Martin, an attorney for Burge, said in court that Burge will contend he was at the South Loop police headquarters at the time the most infamous of the alleged tortures — of cop killer Andrew Wilson — took place at Area 2 headquarters on the South Side on Feb. 14, 1982.
After court, though, Martin made it clear that Burge's testimony won't be limited to just Wilson. Burge will confront the government's entire case against him, Martin said. Four other suspects also testified that they were tortured by Burge or detectives under his command at Area 2 in the 1970s and 1980s.
Wilson, who died in prison in 2007 while serving a life sentence for the murders of Chicago police Officers William Fahey and Richard O'Brien, had alleged he was beaten by a half-dozen detectives and shocked by Burge and other detectives while he was pressed against a radiator, causing burns to his face, chest and right leg.
Earlier Wednesday, the defense called noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to testify that many of the wounds on Wilson's body were not burns or were too old to have been inflicted during his interrogation by Burge and others.
Several jurors gasped and began whispering to one another when Baden — the former chief medical examiner for New York City who once had a television show on HBO — revealed that he expected to be paid $27,000 for his work for the defense.
Baden said photos of Wilson taken in the days following his arrest as well as medical records and his own experience led him to believe that the wounds on Wilson's face were old scars. He also concluded that the presence of hair as well as the position of the wounds on his chest indicated they were not burns.
"My opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is that none of those injuries were caused by a hot object," he said.
But he did agree that a wound on Wilson's right thigh was a burn that may have been hours to days old at the time the photo was taken. And he said small marks on Wilson's ears could have been caused by alligator clips detectives allegedly used to attach the electroshock device to his body.
Baden said he could not be sure about one of the marks, at which point Betsy Biffl, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, pulled out an alligator clip and enlisted the help of Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weisman.
"I actually have a willing volunteer, Mr. Weisman," she said. Jurors laughed when Weisman winced as Biffl applied the clip to his ear.
"In New York City, that would be sexual harassment," Baden quipped.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times