1.Are new claims still being accepted?
Yes. Under P.A 99-688, the TIRC Act was amended to extend the filing deadline through August 10, 2019.
2. Who can file claims with the Commission?
The law that created the Commission is the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Act (the "TIRC Act"). That law said that a claim could be filed before the Commission by anyone who had a "claim of torture." A claim could also be filed by any court, person, or agency on behalf of someone else who had a "claim of torture." The law defines 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 which the person was convicted and the tortured confession was used to obtain the conviction and for which there is some credible evidence related to allegations of torture occurring within a county of more than 3,000,000 inhabitants.
The claim must therefore be made by or on behalf of:
- a living person,
- convicted in the Cook County Courts of a felony in Illinois, and
- who claims he (or she) was tortured into confessing to the crime of conviction.
- The tortured confession must have been used to obtain the conviction, and
- there must be some credible evidence of torture.
All five of the above requirements must be met.
5. I was tortured, but my claim doesn't have anything to do with Jon Burge or his officers.
Although the law originally required a nexus to Jon Burge, that requirement was removed by P.A. 99-688 on July 29, 2016.
6. In what order is the Commission deciding cases?
Before July 29, 2016, the TIRC Act required cases to be investigated and decided in a certain order. Public Act 99-688 removed that mandatory order. The Commission is currently working on administrative rules that would specify factors to be considered when determining the order in which cases are resolved.
7. What relief can the Commission give?
Explaining this point is somewhat complicated, because of Illinois' complicated system for providing post-conviction relief to persons convicted of crimes.
- Convicted persons normally have a brief period in Illinois to file a post-conviction remedy, absent exceptions that show a violation of constitutional rights, such as newly discovered evidence or proof of actual innocence. If the petition is brought 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 brought before it to see if there is credible evidence of torture that merits judicial review. The Commission can investigate the case and refer the claim even if the claimant has not met normal procedural deadlines.
- If a case is referred to the Circuit Court by TIRC, it normally gives the claimant an automatic opportunity for a full hearing before a judge. If the Circuit Judge decides that it is likely that a confession was coerced, the judge can award a new trial to the claimant.
- The Commission also has the discretion to refer evidence of criminal acts, professional misconduct, or other wrongdoing to the appropriate authority.
The Commission cannot give any money damages. It's main responsibility is to recommend a new hearing when it refers a matter to the Circuit Court.
8. Does the Commission have to be sure that torture occurred before it makes a referral to Court?
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 merit judicial review, the case shall be referred to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court. The Commission interprets this language to be the rough equivalent of a "probable cause" determination. The 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. The Illinois Appellate Court confirmed in March of 2016 that the Commission’s threshold for referring a case to court for a hearing is lower than deciding that torture occurred. See paragraph 95 of the appellate decision here.
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 subject to court review. If you file a claim and the Commission rules against you, you have a very 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?
The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Commission determinations are not binding on the Courts. That decision is available here. The Court found that Commission determinations are not final judgments that fix absolutely and finally the rights of the parties. Instead, the Court found that a Commission disposition “simply [sends] the case onto its next step in the circuit court."
11. What 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 of torture. In certain cases, the Commission also requires a waiver allowing the Commission to talk to a claimant’s trial or appellate counsel about claims of torture that were made to such attorneys when those proceedings were conducted, and why those claims may or may not have been formally made in court filings and testimony.
The Commission does not routinely ask claimants whether they committed the crime for which they were convicted, nor are claimants asked to give permission to their trial or appellate attorneys to reveal discussions regarding the underlying crime. But the Commission 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 post-conviction petition?
Yes. Both remedies are independent.
13. I heard that Judge Biebel appointed a Special Master for Burge cases. How does that affect the Commission?
Judge Biebel (now retired from the bench) 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 was to search for certain defendants who claimed they had been tortured by Jon Burge or his officers. Once those persons were identified, Judge Biebel and his successors appointed lawyers for those defendants
The Special Master has concluded identification of eligible defendants.
16. I heard the Commission has had its funding cut off by the State. Is it able to complete its business?
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 Office has committed to providing the Commission with at least the same, if not more funding, for the forseeable future.
17. I heard that a new reparations law was passed. Can I still apply?
No, The City of Chicago enacted a reparations ordinance on May 6, 2015. The deadline to apply for reparations passed on August 4, 2015. That ordinance is entirely separate from the Commission, and does not affect the Commission's work. Information about the City’s reparations ordinance can be found on its website, at http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dol/supp_info/burge-reparations-information.html.
18. 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.
19. How do I get in touch with the Commission?
You can write to the Commission at:
Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission
100 West Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601