June 24 (UPI) — A Chicago man has been freed after 36 years in prison for the murder of two police officers after a judge ruled police tortured him to get a confession.
Jackie Wilson, 57, walked out of the Cook County Jail on Friday after Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks threw out his conviction for the murders of Chicago police officers Richard O’Brien and William Fahey in 1982. Hooks said police tortured Wilson to get the confession and prosecutors “utterly failed” to make a convincing argument to keep Wilson locked up as he awaits a new trial.
“[I’m] happy to be a member of society again after 36 years of incarceration for a crime I didn’t commit,” Wilson told reporters shortly after he was released. “It’s been a rocky ride. I’d just like to move forward with my life barring any further complications and I’d like to make my contribution to society.”
Wilson was one of several young black people who were allegedly tortured by ex-Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and detectives under his command during the 70s and 80s at Chicago’s South Side Police Station. The scandal has resulted in at least $115 million in settlement payouts and at least one false conviction.
“Being a victim of one of a number of Jon Burge’s brutalities,” Wilson said with a sigh, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Oh Lord, it’s just, it’s been a rocky ride.”
Both Wilson and prosecutors agree that it was his now-deceased brother, Andrew, who fired the shots that killed the two police officers. But Wilson said he didn’t play an active role, while prosecutors have argued that he did.
Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, blasted Hooks’ ruling.
“I’m very disappointed that a man that is responsible, who was at the scene, that has admitted to being there when two honored police officers of the Chicago Police Department were murdered, gunned down, and he walks out,” Graham said.
And Special Prosecutor Michael O’Rourke said Burge’s torture campaign shouldn’t be a factor in Wilson’s case.
“Jon Burge has no effect on the evidence to prove the actual criminal conduct, which is separate and apart from anything Burge-related,” he said. “We have witnesses and we have testimony that’s completely non-Burge-related that will set out this case and set it out in convincing fashion.”
Prosecutors said they will appeal Hooks’ ruling.