* At first glance, I, like Eric Zorn, was somewhat puzzled about this story…
Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the director of a state commission vetting allegations of police torture to step down amid complaints from victims’ families that the commission violated Illinois law by excluding them from the process.
Quinn said in a letter released Wednesday that he had asked David Thomas to resign from the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission immediately, “and if he does not do so the commission should remove him.”
While the commission’s assignment to look for possibly torture-induced confessions was critical, “it is just as critical … to hear from the families of the murdered victims,” Quinn stated in the letter, which was addressed to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who had written to the governor expressing concerns about the treatment of victims’ families.
What possible information, let alone relevant information, could the family members of crime victims have to offer a panel exploring the narrow and preliminary issue of whether the suspect or suspects in the related crime were tortured while in police custody?
How could it possibly be useful — never mind “critical” — to hear from them at such a stage in the review process? […]
(W)hat “input” could victims’ families possibly offer when it comes to legal determinations about investigatory/procedural matters to which they were not witnesses?
The alleged “victim” here is actually the person who may have been tortured. The original “victims” wouldn’t have any knowledge of that.
* But Chuck Goudie’s I-Team also jumped into the fray…
“We are outraged and we think the people of Illinois would be outraged if they knew what we know,” said Joe Heinrich, murder victim’s brother.
What Joe Heinrich says he knows started precisely thirty years and two weeks ago, in 1983. His sister JoEllen Pueschel and her husband Dean were savagely killed in their West Rogers Park apartment. Son Ricky saw it. The then-11-year old was left for dead, but survived and testified against Jerry Mahaffey and his brother Reginald. Ricky is now 41 years old.
“Without question they are the ones who swung the bats, they are the ones who grabbed the gun, the ones who stabbed the knives. They are the ones who did unthinkable things to my mother,” said Rick Pueschel, attack survivor.
Murder-con Jerry Mahaffey claims he was tortured into confessing under the regime of notorious police commander Jon Burge. When Mahaffey asked the new Illinois torture commission to review his case, under state law, the victims’ family members were to be notified. But they never were.
* From the state law…
The 2009 law establishing the commission states that in cases where evidence of torture is found, the director “shall use all due diligence to notify the victim and explain the inquiry process,” and notify victims of their “right to present his or her views and concerns throughout the … investigation.”
So, the commission screwed up and didn’t follow the law.
* Then again, Zorn quotes DePaul College of Law professor Len Cavise, a member of the commission…
The work of the Commission has absolutely nothing to do with underlying guilt or innocence. We have no power whatsoever to retry the case or even to examine the weight of the evidence. Our statutory charge is solely to determine whether physical coercion led to a confession in the case. If we so find, the case is referred to the Chief Judge for further proceedings. At that point, our work is done. It is then up to the court to determine the relationship between the torture and the conviction…..
As much as we welcome the participation of the families of the victims of crime as well as the families of the victims of torture, most families have no personal knowledge as to whether or not the police tortured the defendant. I repeat we are only looking at torture, not the underlying case. The underlying case is an inquiry for the courts and we are not a court.
OK, I get all that, but state law is state law. I don’t remember the details, but I’m betting the bill was crafted in a way to make sure it could pass, and that meant making sure the original victims were notified. The commission dropped the ball.
It’s possible, even probable, that Burge and his thugs used torture to “frame” guilty men. While admittedly irrelevant to the commission’s mission, the original victims still have a right to be heard.