A founding partner of the Chicago-based People’s Law Office recounts his career fighting on behalf of victims of police malfeasance, especially torture and wrongful death.
“If the torture machine teaches one lesson above all, it is that torture is as American as apple pie,” writes Taylor, whose long career is a catalog of hard-fought battles for racial justice waged in Chicago’s courtrooms. In this personal narrative, Taylor offers no introductions or preludes, plunging straight into the heart of the beast: a morass of police corruption and conspiracy dating back to the December 1969 assassinations of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Discussing his arrival on the scene of what authorities were selling as a police raid gone wrong, the author writes, “shock and grief soon met with the dawning realization that the police claims of a shootout were bold-faced lies. We were looking at a murder scene.” Thus begins the harrowing tale of the author’s 13-year crusade with the PLO “to uncover and expose the truth about that murderous raid.” The author also chronicles the next three decades spent seeking justice for survivors of a conspiracy of brutal torture carried out by police during their investigations. Sparing no details, Taylor reveals the police force’s reign of terror and the Gestapo-like interrogation tactics administered by Lt. Jon Burge and his squad of “confederates.” For 20 years, using a variety of tactics, including suffocation, pistol-whipping, and electric shock—all under a cloak of secrecy—Burge and company beat confessions from dozens of victims. The author uncovers stories of secret files, a code of silence among police officers, and complicity among politicians, and he shows how he and the PLO worked for years to free prisoners whose incarcerations were based on torture confessions while winning “more than $35,000,000 in settlements, verdicts, and reparations for more than sixty torture survivors.”
Taylor illuminates in graphic detail the scars caused by some of the worst elements of law enforcement in a city perpetually beset by violence.