Chicago Cops balk at paying $110K
Owe punitive damages for fabricating confession in murder

Three Chicago Police officers are seeking to overturn a jury’s $330,000 punitive damage award — saying it would ruin them financially.

In June, a Cook County jury awarded Donny McGee $1.3 million after finding the officers fabricated his confession in the 2001 murder of his neighbor, Ethel Perstlen, 76. The award included $110,000 that each officer must pay from his personal funds.

Detectives Edward Farley and Robert Lenihan and Officer Robert Bartik have filed a motion seeking a new trial. Alternatively, they want the punitive damage award dropped or reduced.

Bartik, a polygraph examiner, and Farley are still on the police force and earn $72,000 and $82,000 a year, respectively, their motion says. Lenihan is retired and lives on a $59,000 a year pension.

The officers, who deny they framed McGee, argue the jury should not have been instructed that it could impose punitive damages. But they also pointed to an appeals court decision that said “the amount of the award should send a message loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to deafen the listener.”

“A punitive damage award in such an excessive amount will effectively financially destroy them,” says their motion, filed earlier this month.

They also say a juror improperly conducted her own Internet research during the trial, but the judge failed to remove her.