Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who could file claims with the Commission before the deadline?
The law that created the Commission is the
Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief
Commission Act (the “TIRC Act”). That law said that a claim can be filed before
Commission by anyone who has a “claim of torture.” A claim can also be fined by
person, or agency on behalf of someone else who has a “claim of torture.” The
an eligible “claim of torture:”
"Claim of torture" means a claim on behalf of a living person
convicted of a felony
in Illinois asserting that he was tortured into confessing to the crime for
person was convicted and the tortured confession was used to obtain the
and for which there is some credible evidence related to allegations of torture
committed by Commander Jon Burge or any officer under the supervision of Jon
The claim must therefore be made by or on behalf of:
- a living person,
- convicted of a felony in Illinois, and
- who claims he (or she) was tortured into confessing to the crime of
- The tortured confession must have been used to obtain the conviction, and
- there must be some credible evidence,
- related to allegations of torture committed by Jon Burge or an officer under
All six of these requirements must be met.
2. I was tortured by an officer who had worked under Jon Burge, but my
confession were after Burge supervised that officer. What will the Commission
The Commission believes that claims of torture against officers who had
worked for Jon Burge are “related to allegations of torture committed by
Burge or any officer under the supervision of Jon Burge,” as required by the
TIRC Act. For
that reason, the Commission will accept and act on your claim.
You should know, however, that at least one Circuit Judge has ruled that the
Commission does not have authority over such cases. The Commission does not
that ruling, and will continue acting on such cases unless there is a clear
appellate ruling that
the Commission does not have authority over cases involving officers who
for Jon Burge.
3. Are new claims still being accepted?
No. Under the TIRC Act, all claims were required to be filed by
August 10, 2014.
4. Will the Commission still exist after the cutoff date?
Yes, the Commission intends to keep working until it completes the cases
that were pending
before it on August 10, 2014. An additional period of approximately 2
years will likely be
needed to complete all work.
5. I was tortured, but my claim doesn’t have anything to do with Jon
The Commission has accepted claims
that are not against Jon Burge or officers who worked for him. At this
point, our ability to address claims that do not involve officers who served
under Jon Burge is uncertain.
On June 18, 2014, the Commission
issued an Order Concerning Jurisdiction in the case of Jaime Hauad. That
Order discusses the Commission's view of the language,
legislative history, and meaning of the TIRC Act. The Order can be
6. In what order is the Commission deciding cases?
The TIRC Act says that the Commission must give priority to those cases in
the convicted person is currently incarcerated solely for the crime to which he
or she claims
torture by Jon Burge or officers under his command, or both. The Commission
priority to those cases, then start working on cases for which it has
7. What relief can the Commission give?
Explaining this point is somewhat complicated, because of Illinois’
system for providing post-conviction relief to persons convicted of crimes.
- Convicted persons normally have a brief period in Illinois to file a
remedy, absent exceptions that show a violation of constitutional rights, such
newly discovered evidence or proof of actual innocence. If the petition is
later, the convicted person must convince the court that he or she is entitled
to a full
hearing before the court will hold a hearing to take evidence of a violation.
- If a claim is brought to the Commission, TIRC investigates the cases
it to see if there is credible evidence of torture that merits judicial review.
Commission can investigate the case and refer the claim even if the claimant
met normal procedural deadlines.
- If a case is referred to the Circuit Court by TIRC, it automatically
gives the claimant
the opportunity for a full hearing before a judge. If the Circuit Judge decides
is likely that a confession was coerced, the judge can award a new trial to the
- The Commission also has the discretion to refer evidence of criminal
professional misconduct, or other wrongdoing to the appropriate authority.
8. Does the Commission have to be sure that torture occurred before it makes
No. If 5 or more of the 8 voting members of the Commission conclude by a
preponderance of the evidence that there is sufficient evidence of torture to
review, the case shall be referred to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court. The
interprets this language to be the rough equivalent of a “probable cause”
Commission does not have to decide it is more likely than not that torture
occurred, but it
must decide that there is sufficient credible evidence of torture for a
claimant to deserve his
or her day in court.
9. What if I disagree with the Commission’s decision?
The decision of the Commission is final, but it is possible that it may be
court review. If you file a claim and the Commission rules against you, you may
limited time to file a petition for Administrative Review with the Circuit
Court. You should
immediately consult an attorney.
10. Are the Commission’s
determinations binding on the Court?
That is for the courts to
decide. In general, the Commission’s decisions give claimants the
right to a full hearing in court. There may be individual cases where the
factual findings that events more likely than not occurred.
There is an argument that those findings
are entitled to
special deference in court. The court will have to determine how
much deference should
be given those findings and the Commission’s
kind of waiver do I have to sign to proceed with the Commission?
The TIRC Act requires that a claimant must waive
his or her right against self-incrimination
in order for the Commission to conduct a formal
inquiry into a claim of torture.
The claimant must agree to provide full
disclosure regarding inquiry requirements of the
Commission. The waiver does not apply to matters
unrelated to a convicted person's claim
The Commission does not routinely ask claimants
whether they committed the crime
for which they were convicted. But it reserves
the right to ask questions related to a
convicted person’s claim of torture in some
cases that could potentially be incriminating.
12. I think I have newly discovered evidence
or another reason to file a new post-conviction
proceeding? Can I go before the commission and also proceed in court with a
Yes. Both remedies are independent.
13. I heard that Judge Biebel recently
appointed a Special Master for Burge cases. How
does that affect the Commission?
Judge Biebel recently appointed Dean
David Yellen of the Loyola Law School as a
Special Master. The appointment of a Special
Master by Judge Biebel does not affect either
TIRC’s processes, or the Court’s. The Special
Master’s sole task is to search for any and all
prisoners who are still incarcerated and who may
have what Judge Biebel called a "valid
claim.” The elements of a "valid
claim" include all of the following:
- The individual was convicted based in part
upon a confession;
- The confession was the end result of an
interrogation in which Burge or
officers under his chain of command or direct
- The individual made an allegation of coercion
in the context of his original
proceedings, either at a motion to suppress or
in some other clear and
definitive way, that his confession was the
product of physical abuse or
torture, and those objections were overruled;
- He remains incarcerated today; and
- He has never had the opportunity to present
his claim of coerced confession
with the benefit of the substantial evidence now
available to implicate Burge
and those who worked under him.
Once someone with a valid claim is identified,
Judge Biebel’s order says that the Judge will
appoint pro bono counsel. The Commission will be
happy to work with the appointed
counsel in evaluating a claim.
14. So will TIRC still hear cases even though
there is now a Special Master?
15. I already have filed a claim with TIRC,
but I also have a “valid claim” as defined by
Judge Biebel. What does this mean for me?
Any claimants who are already before
the Commission and are identified by the
Special Master would likely be eligible to have
free, pro bono counsel appointed by Judge
Biebel. The Commission will continue to
investigate your claim.
16. I heard the Commission has had its
funding cut off by the State. Is it able to complete
For a period in 2012-13, the
Commission did not receive funding from the state
government. Funding was restored in 2013, and
the Governor’s Ofice has committed to
providing the Commission with at least the same,
if not more funding, for the next fiscal
year. The Commission is currently being funded
at an adequate level to do its job. In
addition to its Executive Director, the
Commission has added a staff attorney and has
retained a retired federal law enforcement agent
to act as an investigator.
17. What rights does a crime victim have?
Under the TIRC Act, the victim of the
crime (or if the victim of the crime is deceased,
the next of kin of the victim, which shall be
the parent, spouse, child, or sibling of the
deceased victim) has the right to present his or
her views and concerns throughout the
Commission's investigation. The victim is
permitted to attend proceedings otherwise closed
to the public, subject to any limitations
imposed by this Act, and subject to Section 2(c)(14)
of the Open Meetings Act.
18. How do I get in touch with the
You can write to the Commission at Suite
10-300, 100 West Randolph, Chicago, IL