MISSION AND PROCEDURES STATEMENT
The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission is a state agency that was created by the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Act (the "TIRC ACT"). The TIRC Act was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2009. It was amended by P.A. 99-688 on July 29, 2016.
During the 1980's and 1990's, there were a series of allegations that confessions had been coerced by Chicago Police Detectives under the command of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge by using torture. Burge was suspended from the Chicago Police Department in 1991 and fired in 1993 after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had in fact used torture.
Between 2002 and 2006, a Cook County Special Prosecutor, retired Justice Edward Egan, investigated these allegations. Special Prosecutor Egan concluded that Burge and officers under his command had likely committed torture, but that any crimes were outside the state statute of limitations and could not be prosecuted.
In 2008, the U.S. Attorney brought a federal indictment, charging Jon Burge with perjury and obstruction of justice, for denying that he had participated in or known about torture. Burge was convicted by a jury in 2010, and sentenced to 4½ years in prison.
In 2016, the legislature amended the Act so that others allegedly tortured by oficers not connected to Jon Burge could also file a claim.
2. What Is the Commission?
Following the release of Special Prosecutor Egan's report, legislative and community efforts intensified to provide new hearings to persons who claimed to have been tortured by Commander Burge and his subordinates. The 2009 passage of the TIRC Act, whose lead sponsor was Senator Kwame Raoul, was a result.
The Act provides for an eight member commission, chaired by a former judge. Commissioners were appointed in 2010, and initial staff was hired in early 2011. The Commission drafted and approved initial rules, which went into effect in August, 2011.
The Commission began receiving claims in April 2011, and continued accepting them until August 10, 2014,the filing deadline specified by the Act. In 2016, the legislature re-opened the filing period through August 10, 2019 and is now accepting claims again.
3. What Can the Commission Do?
The Commission is authorized by the Act to gather evidence about a claim of torture occurring in Cook County, and then determine whether there is sufficient credible evidence of torture to merit judicial review. To fall within the Commission's authority to act, or 'jurisdiction,' the claim must be that an officer coerced a confession that was used against the defendant to obtain his conviction. 775 ILCS 40/5(1).
To evaluate a claim, the Commission's staff can serve subpoenas to compel the testimony of
witnesses and the production of evidence, administer oaths, and use any measure provided for in Illinois civil and criminal codes of procedure. The Commission can also, if it chooses, conduct an evidentiary hearing before the full Commission -- but it is not required to do so.
After the Commission has investigated a matter, it is authorized by the Act to perform three
types of determinations:
- It can find by a preponderance of the evidence that there is sufficient credible evidence of
torture to merit judicial review. If it does, it can issue a report on the claim and file that report
with the Chief Judge of Cook County via the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
- The Commission can determine that the preponderance of the evidence does not
demonstrate credible evidence of torture. If the Commission reaches that finding, the claimant
has the right to file a petition for administrative review of the Commission's decision with the Circuit
Court within 35 days.
- The Commission can also choose to refer evidence of criminal acts, professional misconduct
or other wrongdoing to appropriate authorities, and to recommend changes in the law to the General
If a matter is referred to court, a claimant can receive what is referred to in Illinois as a 'third
stage post-conviction hearing.' This means that the claimant can have a full court hearing before
a judge to show by a preponderance of the evidence that his confession was coerced.
Under the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in People v. Wrice, 962 N.E.2d 934 (Ill. 2012)
a judicial finding by a Circuit Court judge that a confession was coerced by torture would likely lead
to a new trial for the defendant, if the State's Attorney (or, in some cases, a Special State's Attorney)
chooses to seek a new trial.
A new trial does not automatically mean that a claimant would be released. If the State tries
the claimant again, each side would have the opportunity to call witnesses, and the court would have
to decide whether any of the evidence given at the prior trial would be admissible under Illinois law.
4. Which Cases Can the Commission Hear?
Prior to 2016, the Commission was only authorized to accept claims of torture relating to former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge. On July 29, 2016, the governor signed P.A. 99-688, which re-opened the claim period through August 10, 2019 and allowed the Commission to investigate any claim of torture in Cook County in which the torture was used to obtain an incriminating statement that was used to convict the tortured person.
5. What Cases Will Be Given Priority?
Prior to July 29, 2016, the Act prescribed that certain cases were to be given priority. P.A. 99-688 removed the mandatory priority provision. The Commission then instituted Administrative Rules creating priority factors for claims where A) The Claimant is incarcerated solely on his conviction in which he alleges torture, B) the claim involves Jon Burge or officers formerly under Burge's command, and C) the oldest claims filed. The Commission may also consider other priority factors, and no one factor is dispositive. See 2 Ill. Admin. 3500.375(c).
6. What Is the Commission Likely to Do in Each Case?
While the Commission is not required to conduct each investigation identically, it is likely to take certain steps in most of the cases in which it conducts a full investigation. These steps include:
- Checking to see if the file is complete and within its jurisdiction.
- Obtaining relevant court records and evidence, if available.
- Checking to locate victims of a crime and/or their family members, notifying them when a formal nquiry has been opened, explaining to them their rights in the proceedings, and notifying them when any proceedings related to their case are scheduled to be discussed before the Commission.
- Interviewing the defendant/claimant.
- Attempting to contact some or all of the persons who may have contemporaneous knowledge of claims of torture, including
- persons identified by the claimant;
- the claimant's public defender or other lawyer;
- the police officers who are accused of torture or were present; and
- the Assistant State's Attorneys who took the statement and/or participated in any initial hearing.
These matters will be reviewed by staff and the record will be provided to the Commission, along
with a recommendation. In some cases, the review may be conducted by pro bono outside counsel,
acting under direction of the staff.
7. What Can a Claimant Do if the Commission Denies the Claim? If the Commission finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there is insufficient credible evidence
of torture, or if it finds that it does not have jurisdiction over a matter, it will issue an order with its
ruling. As noted above, the claimant has the right to file a petition in the Circuit Court under the
state's Administrative Review Law to contest that ruling. The claimant should act within 35 days
under 735 ILCS 5/3-103 to file such a petition, if appropriate.
8. Questions and Contact Information. If you have any further questions about the operation of the Commission, please contact the
Commission's offices at:
100 West Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Nothing contained in the above statement creates any rights. The above is designed as
guidance, and not as formal or informal rules that must be followed.