From Chicago’s North Side to Guantánamo: Former Detective Accused of Torture

George Lavender

If the sun finally sets on Guantanamo, where might the remaining detainees be sent?

The Guardian has an exclusive report on allegations of torture carried out by a former Chicago detective.

Richard Zuley is accused of torturing detainees in Chicago’s north side and later as a lieutenant in Guantánamo. Journalist Spencer Ackerman writes that Zuley’s conduct is under investigation in several cases. The report comes a week after another disgraced former Chicago police commander, Jon Burge, was released from home monitoring.

Zuley’s record suggests a continuum between police abuses in urban America and the wartime detention scandals that continue to do persistent damage to the reputation of the United States. Zuley’s tactics, which would be supercharged at Guantánamo when he took over the interrogation of a high-profile detainee as a US Navy reserve lieutenant, included:

Shackling suspects to police-precinct walls through eyebolts for hours on end.

Accusations of planting evidence when there was pressure for a high-profile murder conviction.

Threats of harm to family members of those under interrogation used as leverage.

Pressure on suspects to implicate themselves and others.

Threats of being subject to the death penalty if suspects did not confess. Continue reading…

Details of Zuley’s record in Chicago, where he worked from 1977 to 2007, began to emerge after Lathierial Boyd’s wrongful conviction for murder was overturned in 2013. Spencer Ackerman reports that in a federal civil-rights lawsuit Boyd accuses Zuley of planting evidence and withholding crucial details.” At the time of his release Boyd had spent 23 years in prison, as the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.

Boyd was ordered released after having been convicted for a 1990 shooting that killed one man and seriously wounded another outside a bar in Wrigleyville. He was sentenced to 82 years in prison.

Boyd’s lawyers had argued that the conviction rested primarily on the testimony of the wounded man, Ricky Warner. They contended Warner initially told police he did not know who shot him, but during the trial Warner testified that Boyd has shot him and the other man over a drug debt.

The attorneys also noted that nine witnesses viewed a line-up that included Boyd and none of them identified Boyd as the shooter.

Boyd’s alibi was that he was at his sister’s home some 20 miles from the crime scene eating pizza and watching a Chicago Bulls game. His sister testified to that, as did a veteran Cook County sheriff’s deputy who was there as well.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, told reporters the decision to vacate the convictions followed investigations by the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which was launched in an effort to root out wrongful convictions. Continue reading…

Former deputy commander of Guantánamo’s investigative task force for the military commissions, Mark Fallon, told the Guardian that based on Zuley’s interrogations at the military prison if that’s any reflection of what he did in Chicago, it would not surprise me that he’s got a few issues going on right now.” 

Other Chicago cases detailed by the Guardian, centering on three people interrogated by Zuley who are still in state prison, turned up evidence in police precinct houses of severe and internationally condemned tactics in Guantánamo Bay interrogation rooms.

Several of those techniques – prolonged shackling, threats about family, pressure to confess – used by Zuley bear similarities to those he enacted when he took over the interrogation of Mohamedou Ould Slahi at Guantánamo, described in official government reports and a best-selling memoir serialised last month by the Guardian as one of the most brutal in the history of the notorious US wartime prison.

After Zuley took over in July 2003, Slahi was subjected to even more extreme interrogation tactics: multiple death threats, extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and a terrifying nighttime boat ride in which he was made to believe that worse was in store. Continue reading…

Zuley’s time at the Chicago Police Department overlapped with Jon Burge the former Chicago police commander accused of systematically torturing black prisoners for decades. According to some reports 100 people linked to confessions given to Burge remain in prison. Former detainees later testified that Burge and his officers had subjected them to beatings, burnings, mock executions, suffocation, and even electrocution. As reported at the Prison Complex, the majority of those victims are not entitled to compensation and cannot sue the state because the statute of limitations has already run out.

Support this work

Reader donations, many as small as just $5, are what fund the work of writers like this—and keep our content free and accessible to everyone. If you support this work, will chip in to help fund it?

It only takes a minute to donate. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.

George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.
Subscribe and Save 66%

Less than $1.67 an issue