Jeanette Plummer clutched a picture of her incarcerated son on Tuesday and pleaded for a new court hearing
to be opened by Cook County
to help liberate her son.
Her son, Johnny Plummer, has been in jail since he was 15, after allegedly being threatened and beaten by Michael Kill and Kenneth Boudreau, detectives serving under the disgraced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge in 1991.
Jeanette Plummer holds a picture of her son while speaking to reporters at a news conference announcing a class-action petition to reopen the cases of men jailed after alleged torture tactics by a former Chicago police commander. (Photo by Aaron Bulnes)
“It’s not fair,” Jeanette Plummer said. “Twenty-one years is wasted. My son needs to come home. It’s long overdue. I want justice.”
Lawyers for Plummer filed a class-action suit this morning to open new hearings for any jailed men who may have been coerced into false confessions under Burge and his staff. The suit lists 12 out of 110 people who have filed claims with the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission.
“I thank God I have them to help me, because I can’t afford a lawyer,” said Plummer, who is fighting to free her son through a pro bono project at Northwestern University’s law school.
During the conference, Plummer said this petition is her son’s last hope for release.
“We want justice for all the torture victims,” Plummer said. “Let the judge see in black and white what they’ve done to him and all the other torture victims.”
Chicago Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the cases and is serving 4 ½ years in a federal penitentiary. He was not convicted of abuse or torture.
Darrell Cannon, 60, was released five years ago after 24 years of incarceration for a murder he did not commit. Cannon filed a handwritten lawsuit after being convicted, saying Burge tortured him into a confession by putting a loaded shotgun in his mouth and using an electric prod to shock him in his genital area.
In 1985, when Cannon filed the suit, his court-appointed lawyer told him that his word wouldn’t stand against those of high-ranked officials.
“I didn’t want to accept a settlement,” he said Tuesday at the press conference. “I sent a letter to my lawyer saying I wanted it taken to court, but he didn’t think that was a good idea.”
Cannon received a $3,000 settlement. After legal feels were deducted, Cannon’s settlement dwindled down to about $1,400.
That settlement didn’t stop Cannon from fighting for his freedom, he said.
“I am living proof, that if given a fair and impartial hearing in front of an open-minded judge, justice will prevail,” Cannon said.
Cannon was among other speakers at the press conference in support of the class-action suit, saying reopening the hearings would finally give a voice to the other men who may have been wrongfully incarcerated because of Burge’s alleged torture tactics.
“Since being home from prison I’ve always fought for those who have not been blessed as I have, to finally get in front of a judge,” Cannon said. “A judge that didn’t put politics first, but instead put the lives of human beings first.”
Although he can’t visit those currently appealing their conviction for legal purposes, Cannon said he hopes those inmates never stop fighting for freedom.
“They need to stay on course and never give up like I never did,” he said. “I hope they receive this [press conference] either by watching TV or reading the newspaper. We’re trying to get them justice too.”
The petition, the first of its kind, represents 12 alleged victims of torture still incarcerated in the Cook County penal system.
Backed by more than 80 supporters, including former U.S. attorneys and aldermen, this petition will attempt to update the statute which created the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission to force the chief judge, Paul P. Biebel Jr., to grant hearings to those affected by Burge’s unit.
Created in 2009 in response to allegations of torture, the Illinois TIRC investigates claims of torture on a $150,000 budget.
“The torture commission is a good idea,” Locke Bowman said. “It’s a clearinghouse for claims of torture in the state of Illinois.”
Though defunded for fiscal year 2012, the Illinois 2013 state budget would increase the commission’s appropriation to $235,000.
If the petition is unsuccessful, the petition would then be carried to the state Supreme Court and presented to the governor’s office.
Though the commission is granted the power to make recommendations to the chief judge of Cook County, it does not require the judge to act on its behalf.
The petition will be presented to Biebel at 9 a.m. Oct. 29 at the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Criminal Division.
Brandon Kuesis, Lynsey Mukomel, Aaron Bulnes, Tatiana Walk-Morris contributed reporting.