Will Burge torture survivors get a fair trial?

Torture is a crime photo.jpg
Prosecutors are hoping to wrap up former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge's trial by week's end. But even a conviction on obstruction of justice charges isn't likely to bring much closure, particularly for his alleged victims. Decades after allegations surfaced that Burge and his officers resorted to electric shocks, beatings and suffocation to elicit confessions, 23 people who maintain they were tortured into confessing remain behind bars. Will they ever get a fair trial?

A legislative commission -- the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Act -- was created last year to review the cases. But 10 months after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law, not a single member has been appointed. And until the state starts generating more money, the Illinois Human Rights Commission spokeswoman Anjali Julka tells us, the commission is on hold -- indefinitely.

"Why isn't this a priority?" says Patricia Hill with the ad hoc group Black People Against Police Torture, which drafted legislation to create the commission. "Why hasn't it gotten the attention it deserves when there is no
question that torture is a practice that occurs in this city, in this
state, in this country?"

Hill, and fellow activists, are still waiting for some answers from Quinn, who pledged to get the commission going early on. A lot is riding on the appointments; most of the defendants alleging torture have exhausted their legal options and the commission could be their last shot at a fair trial, Hill says.

"The torture commission is really all they have," she added. "In some cases, they run out of all the options for remedy. Within the law, you get so many hits, so many bites of the apple."
--Catherine Newhouse
Image courtesy of Flickr, P.U.B.L.I.C.

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