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.
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.
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. The Commission received approximately 260 claims. Processing of the
claims was delayed by a gap in legislative funding, which has now been restored.
In 2013, the Commission began a review of its staff and procedures. A new Executive
Director and Staff Attorney began work in January, 2014. At that time, the Commission extensively
reviewed its jurisdiction under the Act, its crime-victim notification procedures and its standard of decisions.
3. What Can the Commission Do?
The Commission is authorized by the Act to gather evidence about a claim of torture related
to Jon Burge and officers under his command, and then determine whether a claim is sufficiently
credible 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, and that the claim is "related to allegations of torture committed by Commander Jon Burge
or any officer under the supervision of Jon Burge." 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 2014, the Commission had accepted any claim of torture from a person who had been
convicted in an Illinois state court. In reviewing the Commission's jurisdiction, it is clear that there
are three classes of potential cases:
(i)“Core Burge” cases where the interrogation that led to the claim of torture was conducted by Jon Burge
himself, or by officers he was supervising at that time.
(ii)“Former Burge” cases where the interrogation that led to the claim of torture was conducted by officers who
had been supervised by Jon Burge in the past, but were not supervised by Burge at the time
of the interrogation.
(iii)“Non-Burge” cases where the interrogation was conducted by officers with no direct relationship to
There had been substantial disagreement over whether the Commission could hear cases in the second and third categories (Former Burge and Non-Burge cases). In 2014, the Commission extensively re-examined its prior interpretation of the Act and reversed itself in regards to “Non-Burge” claims, concluding in its June 18, 2014, “Order Concerning Jurisdiction” in the Jaime Hauad case that the Act did not authorize the Commission to investigate such cases. However, it affirmed that it had jurisdiction over “Former Burge” cases.
That Order discusses the Commission's view of the language, legislative history, and meaning of the TIRC Act. The Order can be downloaded here.
Although the Commission decided it likely did not have jurisdiction over Non-Burge cases, it recognized that at least one Non-Burge claimant was appealing the trial courts’ decision to the appellate courts, and so it decided to accept such claims through its August 10, 2014, claim deadline but not take action on those cases. Recently, the Appellate Court ruled in March, 2016, that the Commission does not have jurisdiction of Non-Burge cases. The opinion is available here. The claimant involved in that opinion is appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Commission will wait, at least temporarily, for further court action in that case before it settles on a course of action regarding the approximately 130 Non-Burge cases that were filed.
The Appellate Court also ruled in March, 2016, that the Commission does have jurisdiction over Former Burge cases. That opinion is available here.
5. What Cases Will Be Given Priority?
Under the Act, the Commission is required to give priority to "those cases in which 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." 775 ILCS 40/35(2). The Commission intends
to focus on investigating and deciding these cases before it addresses other cases. Given the
Commission's resources, other cases within the Commission's jurisdiction will likely have to wait
until these are decided.
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
* 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
inquiry 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 no 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.