The Illinois Appellate Court overruled a former Cook County judge and threw out the murder conviction of a man who was tortured by a detective who had worked under former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge (see more about Burge in other recent news items below).
The court found evidence that former Chicago police Detective James Pienta, who took the confession of Mr. Whirl, and had also invoked his Fifth Amendment right at Whirl's most recent hearing, had long been involved in the torture of suspects. Whirl pleaded guilty to murder after he was tortured into making a false confession.
Whirl is now 45 and has spent nearly 24 years in prison. "There's no evidence other than his coerced confession," said Attorney Taylor, NPAP member and one of the lawyers who represented Whirl in his appeal. Taylor worked with co-counsel Ben Elson and Tara Thompson.
Last year the previous Circuit-Judge had denied a new trial for Whirl, emphasizing that Cmdr. Burge had moved to a different location in Chicago several years before the incident took place. However, the appellate court found that the judge had failed to take notice of the detective’s refusal to testify and placed too much weight on the fact that Burge was no longer in charge of the area where the murder occurred.