Ill. lawmakers cut funds for police torture panel

Jun 6, 2012, 2:03 AM

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) – Dozens of Illinois prisoners who claim they confessed to crimes under police torture may never have their cases reheard because lawmakers effectively shuttered the commission established to review the cases, panel officials said Tuesday.

Lawmakers stripped all of the funding for the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, which was set up in 2009 in the wake of allegations that former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and several subordinates tortured suspects.

“These guys will continue to rot in jail based on tortured confessions,” said the panel’s executive director, David Thomas.

He added that the Illinois Legislature’s action last week suggested “benign neglect” at best and, at worst, sent the message, ” `We don’t care.’ “

Dozens of men _ almost all of them black _ claimed that, starting in the 1970s, Burge and his officers beat or shocked them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder. Burge was convicted in 2010 for lying in a civil suit when he said he’d never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects. He is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison for perjury and obstruction of justice.

The commission’s mandate is not to determine if those filing claims are innocent but to decide if it is possible their convictions stemmed from confessions under torture. If so, even if they committed the crimes, they may be entitled to have their cases reopened.

More than 100 people have filed claims of torture with the commission, and Thomas estimated that at least a third of those filings are likely to have merit.

By creating the eight-member commission three years ago, legislators held out a promise that anyone with a grievance would have somewhere to turn, said Thomas. By voting to yank funding, he said, “That promise is crushed.”

With funding cut, Thomas said he and commission members would likely resign, and no further work would be done.

Legislators have cast around for places to cut Illinois’ multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, has pointed to the torture commission as one of many commissions that, however well-meaning, are unproductive.

“There are far too many boards and commissions in this state doing far too little work to justify their enormous cost to taxpayers,” a posting on Duffy’s official website quotes him as saying. Several messages seeking comment Tuesday weren’t returned.

Thomas said he appreciates the need for cost-cutting but argues that righting the wrongs of police torture should be a higher priority.

A statement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s office Tuesday said that it proposed the legislature approve $235,000 for the commission, adding that, “We do not have the authority to restore funding to the budget but we feel this issue needs further examination.”

The commission took time to get up and running, Thomas said, in part because of a meager annual budget of $150,000. It delivered its first report to Cook County’s chief judge on Tuesday, recommending legal action on five out of nine claims so far it vetted.

While the commission would effectively stop functioning by the end of June, one commission member noted that legislators will still be able to say that the body continues to exist _ at least in name.

“They have created some kind of an illusion of caring, when, in fact, they have just killed (the commission),” commissioner Rob Warden said.

___

Follow Michael Tarm at
http://www.twitter.com/mtarm

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Andrews Air Force Base after spending the d...
Associated Press

Biden administration says ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is over

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security said Monday that it ended a Trump-era policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court, hours after a judge lifted an order in effect since December that it be reinstated. The timing had been in doubt since the Supreme Court ruled on […]
6 hours ago
(Pexels photo)...
KTAR.com

Arizona man sentenced to 66 months for smuggling ammunition into Mexico

A man from Nogales was sentenced to 66 months in prison for smuggling ammunition from the United States into Mexico.
6 hours ago
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hand...
Associated Press

Hezbollah warns Israel over border dispute with Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group issued a warning Tuesday to archenemy Israel over the two countries’ maritime border dispute, saying that “any arm” that reaches to steal Lebanon’s wealth “will be cut off.” Hassan Nasrallah’s remarks came amid intensified U.S. efforts to resolve a more than a decade-old maritime border […]
6 hours ago
HOLD FOR STORY BY JEFF AMY EMBARGOED UNTIL 06:00 AM EST Aug. 9, 2020**Democratic candidate for Geor...
Associated Press

Abrams calls on using budget surplus to invest in Georgians

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is arguing that it’s time for Georgia to use its budget surplus to invest in its residents, accusing Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republicans of hurting the state by prioritizing low taxes and low spending. With the state flush with $7 billion in extra funds, Abrams […]
6 hours ago
President Joe Biden with first lady Jill Biden waves as they walk on the South Lawn of the White Ho...
Associated Press

Biden to sign $280B CHIPS act in bid to boost US over China

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is preparing to sign a $280 billion bipartisan bill to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing, part of his administration’s push to boost U.S. competitiveness over China. The Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday will include lawmakers, union officials, local politicians and business leaders, the White House said, as the president looks […]
6 hours ago
Taiwan's military conducts artillery live-fire drills at Fangshan township in Pingtung, southern Ta...
Associated Press

Taiwan warns China drills show ambitions beyond island

PINGTUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan warned Tuesday that Chinese military drills aren’t just a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island but also reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, as Taipei conducted its own exercises to underscore it’s ready to defend itself. Angered by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Ill. lawmakers cut funds for police torture panel