WBEZ has audio of the mayor’s awkward press conference this morning, and the Sun-Times‘s Fran Spielman has a rundown. He’s very insistent that he wasn’t the mayor or the police chief during the Area 2 torture scandal, and the facts seem to back him up. Update: The Sun-Times has a PDF of U.S. v. Burge.

But that’s not the issue, of course; Daley was Cook County state’s attorney during critical periods of the scandal, so it’s fair to ask what responsibility he might have. John Conroy directly addressed the issue in “Deaf to the Screams: The next state’s attorney to investigate police torture in Chicago will be the first” (8/1/03) and in “The Police Torture Scandal: A Who’s Who: 4. Knew About It” (6/16/06). From the latter:

“More than 50 men alleged that they were tortured by Burge and his detectives during Daley’s term as Cook County state’s attorney, from 1981 to 1989. He was put on notice several times, most dramatically in the case of Andrew Wilson. Photographs of Wilson’s stitches, burns, and alligator- clip wounds made compelling evidence in court, underlined by Hyman’s failure to ask if Wilson had given his statement voluntarily. Received copy of letter from Dr. John Raba, who as medical director of Cermak Hospital examined Wilson’s injuries, urging police superintendent Richard Brzeczek to investigate. Brzeczek told Daley he had promised to investigate all cases of police brutality but did not want to jeopardize Wilson’s prosecution and asked for guidance.”

In May 2007, Conroy listed 20 questions he’d like to see Daley address. Among them:

“According to state’s attorney Devine’s sworn testimony, you would review each case in which prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty. From the outset there were red flags about Wilson’s confession: Hyman’s failure to ask the coercion question, the police lockup keeper’s refusal to accept Wilson after he emerged from Area Two with so many apparent injuries, the Mercy Hospital records, the Cook County Jail intake photos, the letter from Dr. John Raba, who examined Wilson soon after his arrival at the jail, and a letter from police superintendent Richard Brzeczek asking you for guidance on the matter. Later there would be photographs of alligator-clip-patterned scabs on Wilson’s ears and nose. With so much evidence of coercion, were you comfortable asking that this man be put to death?”

What did Daley do in response to the letter? He says he pursued it via the Special Criminal Prosecutions Bureau; Wilson’s public defender refused to cooperate. From “Deaf to the Screams”:

“Afterward, Raba wrote a letter to police superintendent Richard Brzeczek; he noted Wilson’s condition and his story of electric shock and urged the police to investigate.

“Brzeczek forwarded the letter to state’s attorney Richard Daley. In his cover letter, Brzeczek asked for advice on how to proceed–he had publicly promised a scrupulous investigation of every allegation of police misconduct, but he was wary of jeopardizing Wilson’s prosecution. In 1989 Daley told the Reader through his press secretary that he hadn’t answered that letter but had tried to respond to Wilson’s complaints through his Special Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, the unit assigned to investigate the use of excessive force by police officers. Daley said that because Wilson’s attorney– public defender Dale Coventry–declined to cooperate, the investigation came to an end.

“It’s not unusual for a defense attorney to keep his client away from the state’s attorney’s office, particularly when that office would like to put the client to death. Anything that Wilson might say, the slightest inconsistency (a left turn instead of a right, for example), could be used against him in his criminal trial. Coventry admitted that he wouldn’t cooperate. He also told the Reader that he expected nothing from the state’s attorney but a whitewash; his clients were “thumped” all the time by police and no one ever did anything about it.

“Was the state’s attorney’s office stymied at not having Andrew Wilson to question? Investigations don’t usually come to a halt when the victim is unavailable for interview–consider, for example, the many victims of crimes who are dead. Andrew Wilson did tell his story under oath at a hearing on a motion to suppress his confession; that transcript was available–as were medical records from Mercy Hospital, photographs of Wilson’s injuries, and the testimony of Wilson’s handcuffed neighbor at Area Two, who said she’d heard him screaming. If all that–on top of Larry Hyman’s unusual performance and the letters from Brzeczek and Raba–weren’t enough to make the special prosecutions unit consider an investigation, it’s difficult to imagine what would have been.”

Conroy strikes one note of… well, “sympathy” is not exactly the right word. Context, I guess.

“[I]t may be unfair to blame Daley’s state’s attorney’s office for failing to investigate Andrew Wilson’s allegations. His case may not have been singled out for deliberate suppression. It may simply have received the same treatment the state’s attorney accorded every complaint of brutality by on-duty Chicago police.”