Loyola dean to investigate inmates’ abuse claims against Burge
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter March 12, 2014 2:38PM
Updated: April 14, 2014 11:02AM
To finally bring closure to numerous police torture claims, the chief judge of the Criminal Courts has appointed the dean of Loyola University Law School to identify legitimate complaints of incarcerated men who said they were viciously beaten and forced to confess by disgraced former Area 2 Cmdr. Jon Burge and his underlings.
Judge Paul Biebel Jr. on Wednesday ruled against alleged police-abuse victims who had sought class-action status for the purpose of conducting evidentiary hearings. But Biebel said David N. Yellen’s pro bono work to help some men get their day in court offers a “remedy to an unfortunate chapter in Chicago history.”
With the help of law students and the imprisoned men’s attorneys, Yellen, as a court-appointed “special master,” will find those who have “valid claims” against Burge and his colleagues and never got the chance to speak out.
Once the men are identified, Biebel said he will assign attorneys to them at no charge to help them put together their post-conviction petitions.
Noting that the Illinois Torture Relief Inquiry Commission may not have the money or other resources to fully investigate the claims, Biebel, in his eight-page ruling, said, “There must be a vehicle to address these painful issues stemming from the Burge-related misconduct. The individuals who are still incarcerated as a result of his wrongdoing deserve resolution.”
Biebel also noted that the “adjudication of the claims of torture are particularly ripe” given that charges against Stanley Wrice — who spent three decades behind bars for a rape he said he was forced to confess — were dropped in December.
Locke Bowman, one of the attorneys who had sought the class-action petition, said he was “pleased and gratified” by Biebel’s appointment of Yellen, an expert in criminal law who served as an adviser on white-collar crime for Bill Clinton’s transition team.
“This is a great moment in the history of Cook County. It is the moment when we started to get to the end of the Burge scandal,” said Bowman, the director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University’s Law School.
Yellen’s appointment “is sagacious. It is judicious. It is wise and thoughtful. This is exactly the direction in which we need to head and this is a procedure that promises to get us there.”
Joey Mogul, an attorney with the People’s Law Office, said so far, 15 to 25 incarcerated men have torture claims against Burge and his detectives. But there could be more, she said.
“These men have languished behind bars far too long and this is the opportunity for us to provide them their due process and for them to get their day in court,” Mogul said.
Burge, fired from the Chicago Police department in 1993 after decades on the force, is serving a 4½–year federal prison sentence for lying about torturing and abusing suspects.