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Torture Investigation Panel To Shut Down After State Eliminates Funding

Illinois State Seal

(Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A state commission set up to investigate claims of police torture is about to close up shop.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, the panel, officially known as the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, was established in 2009 in response to the torture scandal under police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports

The budget for the panel last year was $150,000. For this coming fiscal year, the panel was supposed to get $235,000 in state money that would have included funding for a staff attorney, but the Chicago Tribune reports that money will not be coming in.

The Tribune reports that for some reason, both the state House and Senate voted last week not to provide the money. With no money, there can be no investigating, and thus, the panel will shut down on June 30.

The law setting up the commission remains, however, so the possibility remains that the money might be granted to resurrect the panel at some future time.

The eight voting members of the panel – led by a former judge and also including a former prosecutor and public defender, and three non-attorneys – were all unpaid, the Tribune reported.

As its last act, the commission will refer five credible cases of police torture to the courts for further action, the newspaper reported.

The Burge torture cases for which the panel was established date back to the 1970s and ’80s. Burge is now serving a 4 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice on June 28, 2010, for lying in a civil suit when he denied committing or witnessing torture.

The allegations against Burge and his men helped shape the state’s debate over the death penalty. Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Ryan said Burge extracted confessions from them using torture.

Ryan also established a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000, which last year was supplanted by a formal ban on the death penalty that was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.