A black eye

In 1914, Catherine O’Callaghan said she was called to Chicago’s Stockyards police station late one evening to get her sixteen-year-old son, Daniel. As she walked into to the station, she heard her son screaming and begging in another room (Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1914).

When she opened the door to that room, she saw her son between four police officers. As she watched, the officer to Daniel’s left hit him a blow that swung him forward, then the officer to his left hit him with a blow that sent him reeling back. Another office, who she identified as Thomas Coffey, hit Daniel over the head (Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1914, p. 8).

Mrs O’Callaghan complained to Thomas Cronin, the Captain of the station. Cronin admitted that Daniel, who had been arrested on suspicion of stealing car tires, had been interrogated by officer Coffey and three others, who were identified as John Adams, James O’Connor, and Peter Carney. But Cronin denied that any of the officers struck or otherwise harmed Daniel, a claim that seemed somewhat dubious in light of the fact that one of Daniel’s eyes was swollen shut and marked by “a long blue streak directly across it,” and a large lump on the back of his head (Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1914, p. 8).

Undeterred, Catherine O’Callaghan filed a charge against the four officers. The superintendent’s office did assign an investigator to the case, and he made inquiries at the station. Once again, Captain Cronin denied that anything untoward had happened to Daniel O’Callaghan. And, making an argument that was echoed in other cases, Cronin pointed out that Daniel O’Callaghan was no innocent youth. In fact, Cronin said, O’Callaghan was up to his old tricks and had been arrested yet again for tire theft (Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1914, p. H14).  Apparently, the investigation did not go any further.

 

Goldfish & prairies

The “goldfish room,” which figured so prominently in Edmund Fitch‘s claim of police torture in 1923,  also played a role when the police interrogated James Sweeney in 1921. Sweeney, along with Harry Bartlett and several others, had been arrested and convicted for bombing the Beehive Laundry Company during a labor dispute (Illinois v. Sweeney, 304 Ill. 502 (1922)).

At trial, Sweeney testified he was interrogated at length by Chicago police officers at the detective bureau and at the state’s attorney’s office. After being held for more than a day at the Brighton Park police station, Sweeney was taken to police chief Fitzmorris’s office for an hour, and then to the state’s attorney’s office. He remained at the state’s attorney’s office for most of the night; he was interrogated there for roughly four hours by two assistant state’s attorneys, Charles Wharton and Milton Smith, and the chief of detectives, Michael Hughes. Then he was taken to a cell, where he stayed less than half an hour before three officers took him to chief Hughes’s office. As they escorted, the officers told Sweeney they were going to show him the goldfish (Illinois v. Sweeney, 304 Ill. 502, 511-512).

As the Illinois Supreme Court put it, “They showed him the goldfish, which was a beating.”

They dragged him around by his hair and started beating him with a rubber hose. He said that Chief Hughes beat him, and two or three other officers who he did not know by name; that [police sergeant] Egan was there at the time and used his fist; that he could recognize the other two officers and had seen one of them in the courtroom since the trial started, — that is, one beside Egan. He said they told him to come clean and tell everything he knew, and plenty besides, or be found out in some prairie (Illinois v. Sweeney, 304 Ill. 502, 511).

Still Sweeney did not confess, so they took him back to a cell for a while, then back to Hughes’s office, where he was beaten again. Then he went back to a cell, and then back to Hughes’s office a third time, where he was beaten once more. After the last beating, Sweeney confessed (Illinois v. Sweeney, 304 Ill. 502, 512). Sweeney also testified that while he was in custody before his confession he had no time to sleep and was fed a single sandwich and a cup of coffee.

Sweeney’s attorney objected when the state tried to submit his confession into evidence at trial. During a hearing on whether the confession was voluntary, Sergeant Egan testified that he did not harm Sweeney or see anyone else do so. None of the other officers or state’s attorney’s testified. The trial judge, M. L. McKinley, held the confession was voluntary and admitted it into evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed.

“Boy Bandits,” 1903-1904

In the winter of 1904, the three so-called “boy bandits,” James Sammons, John Lynch, and Hugh Reilly (not to be confused with the Hugh Reilly who had a violent brush with the police in 1902), told a jury that they had been tortured by police inspector John Revere and other officers at the Stock Yards station in 1903. The three young men, Reilly and Sammons were eighteen-years-old, and Lynch nineteen (some reports set his age at 21), stood accused of murdering Patrick Barrett during a robbery of Barrett’s saloon on Wallace street (Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1903, p.3; Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1904, p. 12; Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1904, p. 5).

There was little sympathy for any of the suspects in Chicago’s press. The Tribune noted that Lynch and Reilly numbered several criminals among the members of their families, and that all three were were all products of a failed system that had arrested them and then had set them free again to rob and kill (Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1903, p. 3; Chicago Tribune, May 26, 1903, p. 4).

As a result, the paper was quick to believe Inspector Revere when he denied the bandits’s claims of torture. It dismissed Lynch’s claim that he had been starved and beaten until he confessed, as quickly as Sammons’ charge that he was “beaten and kicked until I thought my ribs were all stove in.” But it was particularly doubtful about what it referred to as Reilly’s “sensational charges” (Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1904, p. 12). 

“Revere,” Reilly said, “had his men tie a rope around my neck and hang me to the bars of the cell at the Stockyards station.” He added: “My toes could just touch the floor, and I was left there for twenty minutes. After that I was ready to ‘confess’ to anything “(Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1904, p. 12).

The jury was equally disbelieving, and convicted all three for Barrett’s murder. It did, however, sentence the defendants differently. It sentenced both Lynch and Sammons to death, but chose to sentence Reilly, who, it was claimed, cried after Barrett was killed, to life in prison. The state’s attorney’s office blamed sentimentality for the jurors’ decision not to execute Reilly, but assistant state’s attorney Robert E. Crowe praised the verdicts against Lynch and Sammons:

A few more such verdicts and the young criminals would cease to harass the city. The jury has told them that death to their victim means death to them (Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1904, p. 5)

 

 

Stock Yards Station, 1902

Those who objected to the abuse of Oscar Thompson mentioned other cases of sweatbox methods, including the mistreatment of Hugh Reilly (sometimes referred to as Hugh O’Reilly) in their complaints. After patrol officer Patrick Duffy was murdered in broad daylight on 43rd Street in 1902, the police pulled more than 50 men in for questioning. Reilly was not one of them; instead he was picked up after his former girl friend told the police that he had been involved in the crime. An eye witness to Duffy’s murder identified Reilly as one of the men she saw with Duffy just before his death. Reilly was charged, tried, and sentenced to 14 years in prison on the basis of the confession he gave to officers at the Stock Yards station (Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1902, p.3; Chicago Tribune, September 10, 1902, p. 5; Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1902, p. 3).

During the investigation, officers at the Stock Yards station readily admitted that they put Reilly through three days of “almost constant sweatbox process” (Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1902, p. 5). More details came out that fall. According to the Chicago Tribune, Reilly was taken into a private office in the station to be questioned by several officers. Outside the office,

the assembled newspaper reporters and others could hear the cries of the prisoner and the shouts of the police. A half hour later the man who had entered the room erect and defiant emerged, trembling and leaning on the shoulder of a policeman for support. HIs face was bruised and blackened, his eyes swollen, and groans escaped him as he was led to the cell room below. At the next ‘cross questioning’ of the man, a confession was secured (Chicago Tribune, August 16, 1902, p. 1).

At trial, the issue of way the police obtained Reilly’s confession was never raised. One juror, however, argued there was another problem with Reilly’s interactions with the police: According to Reilly’s confession, he first saw Officer Duffy on the street as Duffy was walking back to the station from lunch and Reilly was walking past a house that he was considering burglarizing. Duffy stopped Reilly, searched him, and then the two got into an argument. During that argument, Duffy was shot. Reilly claimed Duffy was killed by another man who was with him. During the jury deliberations, one unnamed juror argued that Duffy had no grounds to arrest Reilly without a warrant, and that it was Duffy’s own fault he was killed. But while the juror held out for several hours, in the end the other jurors prevailed and the jury returned a verdict of guilty (Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1902, p. 5).

Sweatbox Methods

Report of the General Superintendent of Police of the City of Ch
Francis O’Neill, Chicago police  (from chicagology.com)

In late summer 1902, a range of people from judges to civic leaders to everyday citizens spoke out against use of the sweatbox in Chicago. Their reaction was prompted by stories of Oscar Thompson’s treatment at the hands of Chicago’s police (Chicago Tribune, August 16, 1902, p. 1; Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1902, p. A2).

What was the sweatbox? It was not so much a thing as a process. According to the Chicago Tribune, Thompson was questioned by police for more than a week, some days for several hours on end. During that period, he was yelled at, lied to, and kept from friends, family or legal help. At least once, police deliberately kept him awake all night to try to exhaust him to the point he would talk (Chicago Tribune, August 16, 1902, p.1).

Thompson was arrested so that he could be questioned about the brutal murder of Annie Bartholin. But Thompson was not the suspect; police thought Mrs. Bartholin’s son William had killed her and his fiancé, Minnie Mitchell.  Thompson, who had boarded with the Bartholin family for more than twenty years, was just being questioned as a witness. And questioned he was. Over the next several days, as some police officers continued the search for William Batholin,  Inspector Hunt and others subjected Thompson to the “severe ordeal of questioning” that prompted public ire (Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1902, p. 1; Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1902, p.1).

But while Jane Addams, several criminal court judges, and other Chicagoans were quoted in articles deploring police use of sweatbox methods, Chicago’s mayor, Carter Harrison, Jr., was not persuaded. On the contrary, the Tribune quoted him as saying:

I think the main thing for the police to do is arrest offenders against the law. I suppose in using the sweatbox method of getting confessions, our police are using the methods and precedents established here and in other large cities (Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1902, p. A2).

Chicago’s police chief, Francis O’Neill, tried to offer reassurance. “Do you know what Chicago police do in questioning a suspect?” he asked.

They take him into a pleasant room and sit about and ask questions. It’s the same thing that the state’s attorney does, only he puts sharper points on his questions than we can. It’s exceedingly pleasant and if it is not a sociable affair, that is the fault of the prisoner, and not the police (Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1902, p. 36).

But even though O’Neill said he was not “in favor of torture,” he admitted that sometimes the police were “justified in stretching the law to its limit” in particularly serious cases. “While the police sometimes may not keep wholly within the law in these matters,” he added, “they aim to do so, and when they do stretch the law at times, then it must be remembered they do so in good cause. And we have the color of authority, also,” he added, returning to his earlier point, “because the methods we use in questioning prisoners are also used by the state’s attorney” (Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1902, p. 36).

The Man in the Red Shirt

November 17, 1959, 90 year-old Gertrude Rheinhardt, often described in news accounts as a former opera singer, and her 71 year-old nephew, John Schot, were mysteriously murdered. The two lived in separate apartments in a building Rheinhardt owned at 1927 Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. Very early in the morning of November 17, another resident in the building was awakened by the sound of what seemed to be a scream. When she went out of her apartment to investigate, she saw someone she later described as a tall, slim, light-skinned black man wearing a bright red shirt. Believing him to be the handyman who worked at the building, she asked him if anything was wrong. When he told her no, she went back to bed, only to be reawakened a short time later by the smell of smoke (Chicago Tribune, November 18, 1959, p. B12).

Although the building was soon ablaze, most of the tenants escaped. But when firefighters went through the apartments they found both Rheinhardt and Schot, along with Rheinhardt’s two dogs. They were all dead. Both Rheinhardt and Scott had been stabbed to death (Chicago Tribune, November 18, 1959, p. B12).

Detectives at the Warren Avenue station were assigned to investigate the double homicide. Notwithstanding the fact they had an eyewitness in the form of the tenant who spoke to the supposed handyman, they had little success the first week of their investigation. Adding to the confusion, their witness gave several statements which were subsequently discarded by the investigating officers. Then, during one of her visits to the Warren Avenue station, the neighbor saw a black man in custody in the station. She quickly identified him as the man she saw in her apartment building the night of the fire (Illinois v. Scott, 29 Ill. 2d 97 (1963)).

Once again, there was some confusion about the neighbor’s evidence. She testified at trial that she was able to identify the man in custody at the station because he was wearing the red shirt she saw the night of the murder, but other witnesses testified that the man she identified, Roosevelt Scott, was not wearing a red shirt at the station. In the end, it did not matter because Scott confessed to the murder (Illinois v. Scott, 29 Ill. 2d 97 (1963)).

At a preliminary hearing, Scott’s attorney argued that the confession should be suppressed. Scott testified that while he was being interrogated at the Warren Avenue station he was  handcuffed in a way that caused him serious pain, struck with a blackjack, hit on the top of the head with a Chicago phone book, and forced to remove his clothes and lie on the floor with his legs spread, while officers hit his genitals with a belt (Illinois v. Scott, 29 Ill. 2d 97, 102-103).

Neither the trial judge, nor the Illinois Supreme Court believed Scott’s claims of torture. After a trial, Scott was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to death for each. Although the Illinois Supreme Court did not believe Scott’s claims about being tortured by the police, and refused to bar his confession from evidence, it did reverse his conviction and order that he be retried. At his second trial in 1964, Scott represented himself. Once again, his confession was introduced into evidence, and once again he was convicted of Gertrude Rheinhardt’s murder. This time, he was sentenced to 100-150 years in prison for her murder (Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1964, 3). It is not clear whether he was ever retried for the murder of John Schot.