CHICAGO (CN) - A man who confessed to murder after Chicago police officers, led by now-notorious Lt. Jon Burge, shocked his genitals with a cattle prod cannot re-litigate his claims after he agreed to settle them for $3,000 in 1988, the 7th Circuit ruled.
"This appeal casts a harsh light on some of the darkest corners of life in Chicago," the 50-page opinion begins.
Darrell Cannon, a gang member, was convicted in 1983 of murder, after a fellow gang member murdered a man in the back seat of a car while Cannon drove.
He was arrested and tortured by police detectives under the supervision of then-Lt. Jon Burge until he confessed that he knowingly participated in the murder.
Cannon immediately recanted his confession, claiming that officers played Russian roulette with an apparently loaded shotgun, putting the gun in his mouth, and pulling the trigger when he refused to answer questions. He also said police used an electric cattle prod on his testicles and penis.
Other witnesses made similar allegations of abuse at Burge's hands at Burge's perjury trial in 2011 for lying about the use of torture by Chicago police officers under his command. Burge was found guilty and sentenced
to 4½ years in prison.
As many as 120 men, mostly African-American, may have been victims of Burge's torture. Chicago has spent more than $85 million to settle claims related to his misconduct, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Cannon's court-appointed attorney, Paul Lanphier, believed Cannon had a slim chance of victory, given Cannon's criminal history, his gang affiliation and the officers' repeated denials of the allegations.
Neither Cannon nor Lanphier knew "that the abuse against African American men by Area 2 officers was pervasive and occurred with the complicity of Burge. They did not know that many of the same bizarre and sadistic techniques that these officers used against Cannon had also been used against many other African American men who had been arrested in Area 2. Despite their suspicions, Lanphier did not ask the city or the individual defendants about any other victims of the Area 2 officers," the 7th Circuit ruled.
Lanphier advised Cannon to settle for $3,000, and Cannon agreed, signing a broad release of his claims against defendants in 1988. After expenses, he netted less than $1,300.
Following the revelation of the regular use of torture by police officers under Burge's supervision, Cannon filed a civil rights suit against the city, arguing that the 1988 release was invalid.
But the 7th Circuit found for the city on Tuesday.
"Cannon essentially claims that he would not have settled his case if he had realized that better proof would be available in the future. If he had known that the officers were abusing others, he could have used that information to bolster his own credibility, which had been seriously damaged by his false confession and conviction for the murder of Darrin Ross," Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for the three-judge panel.
But Cannon admitted that both he and his attorney suspected there were other torture victims, but opted not to pursue discovery in the matter.
The court noted that lawyers for other victims did pursue these leads - and uncovered the scandal.
"It is impossible to say whether additional discovery by Lanphier on Cannon's behalf would have uncovered the broader police torture scandal that has now been brought to light. But Cannon has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the reasonableness of his reliance on the officers' false statements at the time he signed the 1988 Stipulation, especially in light of his failure to seek additional information in the original litigation," Rovner wrote.
Unlike other fraudulent inducement cases that Cannon cites in his brief, Cannon was in full possession of the facts - he knew exactly how the police tortured him.
The officers' repeated perjury and scheme to cover up the torture placed him in a difficult bargaining position, but "having never asked for the information about the torture of others, Cannon may not now claim that the settlement process was marred by a lack of information about the torture of others. What the officers did to Cannon was unconscionable; the formation of the settlement agreement was not," the opinion concluded.