Harold Hill was exonerated in 2005, after 12 years in prison, for a rape/murder conviction based on a confession he says was beaten out of him. As reported here in the Chicago Tribune, two police officers allegedly involved in this and other similar coerced confessions will personally pay part of a $1.25 million settlement with Hill by the City of Chicago.
The officer’s payment of $7,500 each is a small part of the settlement, but it was important to Hill. Rather than receiving payment from a “faceless” government entity or insurance company, the officers’ payments hurt those allegedly responsible for Hill’s pain.
“It’s an attempt at restorative justice,” said Russell Ainsworth, an attorney with the firm of Loevy & Loevy. The officers were identified in court papers as Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran.
According to a Chicago Tribune here, “in a two-year period beginning in 1991, Boudreau helped solve at least five murders with dubious confessions that ended in acquittals.”
Hill’s lawsuit against the city was filed in 2006 and cited 26 other cases of similar abuse (see article here). The officers who interrogated Hill were allegedly trained by Jon Burge, who was fired and is infamous after an “internal investigation in 1991 found him responsible for the torture of 60 or more African American men.” He was later imprisoned for lying to federal agents about the abusive interrogations.
The scandal resulting from numerous allegations of abuse has touched the highest levels of command. According to a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley can be sued by those claiming a coverup conspiracy. And at a federal hearing earlier this month, it was determined that Daley will answer questions about an alleged coverup of police torture. He was named in a law suit by Michael Tillman, who claims abusive tactics were used to coerce his confession leading to a rape/murder conviction and 24 years in prison before his conviction was vacated.
The alleged police abuse in the 1970s and 1980s under Commander Burge has generated a number of lawsuits. Daley was Cook County states attorney in the 1980’s and became mayor in 1989. According to this article, “…Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that…while he [Daley] had prosecutorial immunity from lawsuits as state’s attorney, he was offered no such protection as mayor.”
While personal payment by individual police is extremely rare, Harold Hill’s settlement with the City of Chicago was in the context of longstanding allegations of police abuse and coverup. The ongoing lawsuits will continue to provide a high-profile stage for determining accountability after an alleged long pattern of police and governmental misconduct.