The men watch as two actors read a scene in which Rita and Albert, a divorced couple, argue about their son, Otha, a gang member on death row. Albert is a cop:
Rita: He didn’t do it.
Albert: He did plenty. You don’t know the half of it. What he got, he had comin.
Rita: He did it all with guns. Now all a sudden he gonna burn down a building?
Albert: He confessed.
Rita: After they put a plastic bag over his head.
Albert: No, no, no. After Otha says they put a bag over his head . . .
Rita: So you think they had a shock machine, they shock a man in his private parts, but they ain’t going to suffocate somebody?
Albert: I didn’t say they had a shock machine.
Rita: But it wouldn’t surprise you.
Albert: does not reply.
When the reading is over, one by one the men slowly troop to the stage to briefly share their stories with the 350 lawyers, students, and others in attendance. The man once known as Satan says he was dragged from his home by Jon Burge and his crew in 1973 and taken to the police station where he says he was tortured. “It’s hard to speak about,’’ he says. “No words can express how we feel.’’
The former gang chieftain speaks last. “Torture is hell beyond a shadow of a doubt,’’ he says. “But please note, justice is coming.’’ Then he looks down at Conroy seated in the front row. “John Conroy, you’re a bad man,’’ he says. “You’ve always told the truth. You never sugar-coated anything.
“Whatever you do, please stay the course as you have all these years,’’ he says. “You have made a difference.’’
Conroy has stayed the course. And in late May, he got his own small measure of justice when WBEZ, a local public radio station, hired him to blog the Burge trial. “Blogging is sort of old dog, new tricks,” Conroy says. “I’ve never worked for a daily before. Writing every day is going to be an interesting challenge.”
His first blog post, on May 21, posed the question, “Would there be a Burge trial without Andrew Wilson’s ears?” Conroy wrote that he has had “occasion to wonder if former police commissioner Jon Burge would still be a high-ranking officer today, indeed, if he might not have become superintendent, but for Andrew Wilson’s ears.” Photographs taken by a public defender of the scars on Wilson’s ears shortly after Wilson had been interrogated by Burge and some of his men helped to convince a civil jury—and later the civilian police department investigators—that Wilson was telling the truth about being tortured with electric shock.
A few days after his first post about the trial, Conroy was back in the courtroom, taking notes on a yellow legal pad when Jonathan Jackson, the national spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the son of the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, introduced himself. For the last five years, Jonathan Jackson has been an outspoken advocate for “Burge’s victims,” and for the need to prosecute “their torturer.” Jackson shook Conroy’s hand and said, “It was your writing that got me into this. Thank you.”