Jurors say evidence made Burge's denials hard to believe

The breadth of evidence in the perjury case against former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge was so strong that his testimony was not credible, several jurors said Monday.

"It was kind of hard to believe," said Gary Dollinger, 31, an information technology consultant from Round Lake. "It got to the point where it was him versus everyone else."

The four jurors who spoke to the Tribune agreed their deliberations over parts of three days were civil. It was only on Monday, after listening to a month of testimony, that the jurors reread the list of charges and realized the case was narrowly focused. Burge was charged with lying in a civil lawsuit about the torture of criminal suspects.

"Convicting a police officer is a difficult decision," said Mary Gegenhuber of Evanston, adding that once the charges were clear, the jurors quickly reached a verdict.

The backgrounds of the accusers, some of whom were convicted murderers and former gang members, gave some jurors pause, they said.

"They all have a big rap sheet," said Jane Smith of Peotone. "We took all that into consideration."

Smith said she didn't find any of the five accusers particularly credible, although several jurors differed.

According to Dollinger, the most convincing testimony came from Burge's colleague, former Chicago police Detective Michael McDermott. Dollinger said he sensed McDermott appeared to be torn over telling the truth to protect his professional status without "frying his friend."

John Strauss, 66, a retired engineer and the jury's foreman, said Burge had no choice but to deny everything.

"I didn't find him believable," Strauss said. "I also understand he didn't have an option. I mean what was he going to say, 'Yes, I did it?'"

Tribune reporter Kristen Mack and freelancer Dennis Sullivan contributed to this report.

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