John Doe has been unmasked. Last month the Reader reported that Doe, a former assistant state’s attorney, had gone to the Illinois Supreme Court in an attempt to derail the release of the special prosecutor’s report on Chicago police torture–or at the very least keep his name out of it. But the court rejected Doe’s emergency motions, and the report was released Wednesday.
On June 26 the court lifted the seal on the motions filed in Doe’s battle. The documents confirmed that he’s Lawrence Hyman, as the Reader and the Daily Law Bulletin had surmised in print. Hyman’s attorneys argued that by trying to keep his identity secret and the report from being published, the former prosecutor was exercising his constitutional rights. If the mask were lifted, they said, “undoubtedly the public would draw the inference that Doe had something to hide. Such an inference would be unjustified and unfair.” In other words, Hyman concealed his identity and tried to derail the report because he had nothing to hide.
Hyman was sucked into the torture scandal in 1982. That February 14, brothers Andrew and Jackie Wilson were arrested for the February 9 murders of two policemen. The city’s own attorneys would eventually admit that Andrew received “savage torture” at the hands of Area Two Violent Crimes commander Jon Burge. (Photographs of Andrew taken after he left police custody show parallel burns on his chest, a large burn on his thigh, and puncture marks in the shape of alligator clips on his ears and nose.)
Hyman, a supervisor in the State’s Attorney’s Office, took the Wilsons’ confessions. Andrew later testified that the first time he was brought before Hyman he said, “You want me to make a statement after they been torturing me?” and Hyman responded, “Get the jagoff out of here.”
Though Wilson was bleeding from one eye when he eventually gave his confession, Hyman didn’t ask if he’d been offered medical treatment, something a prosecutor would normally do to safeguard the confession from a subsequent claim of brutality. More significant, he didn’t ask Andrew if he was giving his statement voluntarily.
Asking this question is standard operating procedure. Not asking it is an omission so stunning that 14 criminal defense attorneys I polled–a group with 213 years of criminal practice and more than 950 murder cases among them–had never heard of another instance. Ralph Meczyk, a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years and one of four lawyers representing Hyman in the John Doe battle, said he was “incredulous” at the idea that his client skipped the question. He was sure Hyman hadn’t–“I mean it is just not something that is overlooked.”
But that’s what happened, and that day it happened twice. Hyman took Jackie’s statement and didn’t ask if his confession was voluntary, then took a witness’s statement and asked the question, and finally took Andrew’s confession and didn’t ask it.
Hence the special prosecutors’ particular interest in Hyman. If someone decided the question shouldn’t be asked, was it Hyman, or was Hyman following orders from someone higher up? At that point, Richard M. Daley was the state’s attorney and Dick Devine was first assistant. Did they, or anyone else in the office, ever ask Hyman why he didn’t ask the question? And what did they do–or not do–about it?
These are questions that special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle, who spent four years and $7 million in public funds investigating police torture, no doubt hoped to ask Hyman when they subpoenaed him on September 23, 2005, ordering him to appear before the grand jury on October 4.
At that point Hyman became John Doe. Notified that a subpoena was coming, Hyman’s attorney Michael Ficaro said he wouldn’t accept it. (It’s common practice for attorneys to accept subpoenas for their clients.) After that, according to a transcript recently unsealed by the supreme court, the special prosecutor’s office managed to serve the subpoena to Hyman himself only “with some difficulty,” a description Boyle declined to elaborate on.
Ficaro moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the statute of limitations had passed for any crime Hyman might have committed. In a hearing before Judge Michael Toomin on October 7, Boyle replied that the special prosecutor’s office had been established to determine what happened and whether anyone could be prosecuted. Hyman’s argument, Boyle pointed out, “would apply to every witness in this investigation,” and its effect was “to say that we never should have been appointed.” Toomin ruled against Hyman and ordered him to appear before the grand jury on October 14.
Hyman didn’t show.
“John Doe, also known as Lawrence Hyman, was ordered to appear today at nine o’clock,” Toomin responded. “He has willfully refused to appear. His refusal constitutes a direct contempt of this Court. . . . The defendant is ordered to be incarcerated in the Cook County Department of Corrections until he purges himself by agreeing to comply with the subpoena and appearing before the grand jury.”
Ficaro asked the judge to stay the arrest order while he appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Toomin asked Egan and Boyle, as the aggrieved parties, what they wanted, and they said they wanted him to issue a warrant for Hyman’s arrest immediately. Ficaro, who had declined to reveal Hyman’s whereabouts, asked if he could step out to talk to him. “Let’s not fool around,” Boyle shot back. “You don’t have to talk to him. The judge has entered an order, for God’s sake. Now we have two orders, and you have to talk to Mr. Hyman?”
After a brief recess, however, Egan and Boyle agreed to a stay. The newly released transcript reveals that they changed their minds because it was Friday and if Hyman went to jail he might be stuck there all weekend.
“I don’t want people to think I am a weak-kneed son of a bitch,” Boyle said last week, “but in my judgment it would be grossly unfair if there was a possibility that the court would give him bail in the normal course of business. . . . If it were any other day of the week I would have just said ‘Grab him, lock him up, and whatever the hell happens to him is somebody else’s business.’ But I know on a Friday afternoon it can be very difficult to get bail. And depending upon where he was picked up and processed it could be just impossible. . . . I suppose if it were prosecutors other than Ed and me, they might have said the hell with this guy. But I just thought that is an unfair advantage to take.”
The Illinois Supreme Court declined to take up the issue, and Hyman subsequently appeared before the grand jury. According to documents filed by his attorneys, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
One reason Egan and Boyle were so angry when Hyman skipped his first date with the grand jury was that more than 25 former prosecutors had already been interrogated under oath, including some who are now Cook County judges and two who serve on the Illinois Appellate Court. In an interview last week, Boyle revealed that Hyman was the only one who resisted his or her subpoena and the only one who took the Fifth.
These are facts that wouldn’t have come out if Hyman’s attorneys had persuaded the supreme court to block the report or to at least delete his name and any mention of his taking the Fifth. As an example of the “devastating impact” that they argued the report might have on Hyman, they cited a Sun-Times article from May 6 in which Sixth Ward alderman Fredrenna Lyle said, “We want that report released for the same reason Holocaust victims want Nazi soldiers found and prosecuted: to feel there is justice in this world. . . . If there are allegations about any state’s attorney, I want their name in the paper so when they try to become a judge we can say, ‘Wait a minute. This is the guy who participated when they were torturing people.'”
The special prosecutor’s report justifies Hyman’s fears: “In our judgment,” it says, “Hyman did not tell the truth when he denied [in testimony] that he had been told by Andrew Wilson that he had been tortured by detectives under the command of Jon Burge. His false testimony stands as corroboration of Andrew Wilson.”
There’s no mention of higher-ups calling the shots. Even so, Boyle regards Hyman as something of a victim. “He was the unfortunate one who was called to Area Two to take the statement that day,” he said last week. “I think they started down a road, they never could come back from it, and whatever happened, he got caught up in it.”