CPD slammed for holding witnesses too long

Molly Brown
Chicago Defender
April 7, 2005

The Chicago Police Department's practice of holding witnesses in criminal investigations happens far too often, two legal aid officials charges Wednesday.

"As a matter of police practices, the Chicago Police Department takes witnesses—who they have no reason to think they've done anything wrong—and isolates them in a locked interrogations room with no access to food, phones, water, or family," said Craig Futterman, a low professor at the University of Chicago's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.

On Tuesday, Futterman and another University of Chicago attorney, Locke E. Bowman of the U. of C.'s MacArthur Justice Center, files a class action lawsuit against the city, charging it with violating crime witnesses' constitutional rights. The lawsuit, which includes Police Supt. Philip Cline, seeks an injunction to stop the Chicago Police Department from regularly holding witnesses against their will in criminal investigations. Chicago has the only big city police department in the United States that carries out this practice, Futterman said.

This week's lawsuit resulted from a homicide last Saturday. A Southwest Side man, Ramon Ayala, 18, allegedly witnesses the murder at 24th Street and Christiana Avenue. Police picked up Ayala as a witness on Sunday.

Police refused to let Ayala see his sister at a local police station, who then contacted the First Defense Legal Aid clinic on Monday. The FDLA attorney was told he could not speak to Ayala, either, and U. of C. attorneys were contacted early Tuesday.

Police told Futterman and FDLA staff attorney Jessica Webb that because their client was a witness—and not a suspect—he did not have a right to see a lawyer. Requests for Ayala to be released were also denied.

"The city