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Judge could release alleged Burge torture victim

Monday, May 24, 2010

For more than 20 years, Michael Tillman has been imprisoned for a murder he claims he didn't commit.

Tillman could be a free man following a hearing on his case this week.

Michael Tillman's attorneys say his release will be justice. But the relatives of the woman Tillman is accused of killing still blame Tillman. The woman's daughter says she is praying he won't be released.

Angelita Howard was 19 when her mother was raped and murdered.

"It was pitch black dark but you could see her body from the moon shining on her body," said Howard.

In July of 1986, someone attacked Betty Howard in her apartment building. Howard was preparing for her son's two year old birthday, but she didn't show up. Howard's son is believed to have been with her until she was found dead a day later.

At the time, police said Michael Tillman committed the crime. Tillman allegedly confessed, was convicted and is serving time.

Now a judge is considering releasing Tillman.

"For him to be released is totally unjust, it's not right," said Angelita Howard.

In Tillman's trial, prosecutors used Tillman's confession to prove their case. But Tillman's attorneys say his confession came after four days of torture by Jon Burge and other officers at Area 2.

"They used a form of water boarding, putting water under his nose or 7Up...they put a gun to his head...they beat him," said Flint Taylor, attorney for Michael Tillman.

The People's Law Office has handled 15 of the more than 100 cases alleging Burge obtained false confessions from 1972 to 1991. They have requested the case against Tillman be dismissed.

In addition to the false confession claim, another man was convicted for Howard's murder in subsequent years. Clarence Trotter is now serving time for Howard's murder.

"This was a brutal torture by men who work worked directly under John Burge and under his supervision and who are now under investigation by the feds," said Taylor.

"I hate the way things went the way they did with police beating him. If that's the case but I do honestly believe Michael is guilty of thee crime," said Angelita Howard.

After the allegations about Burge, a special prosecutor was assigned to handle some of the cases. ABC7's calls and emails to the special prosecutor were not returned.

Flint Taylor has handled several wrongful conviction cases. He says in these cases there are two sets of victims - the wrongfully convicted and the victim's family looking for justice.

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jon burge, local, leah hope
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