- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois panel tasked with reviewing claims of police torture is overwhelmed with cases and short on funding, especially with the state budget impasse.

A recent law change expanded the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission’s jurisdiction beyond claims of torture related to disgraced former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge to anyone convicted in Cook County based on confessions allegedly coerced through torture, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/2pqdolS ) reported.

Commission spokesman Michael Theodore said over 180 new claims have been filed since the law went into effect last summer. Commission staff also must investigate over 120 cases filed under the old law.

The commission has sought help from law firms, law school interns and high school students who do clerical work.

“We can’t deal with those numbers the way we’re set up now,” said Rob Olmstead, the commission’s executive director. “I think the Legislature’s intention was laudable. They wanted to bring potential relief to what they thought was a wider pool of people who needed it, and that’s great, but now we need to practically find a way to do it.”

Cases are referred to Cook County Circuit Court for a hearing if the commission finds a preponderance of evidence of torture by police. A judge can then grant a new trial.

Theodore said commissioners have denied more claims than they referred since the panel first began receiving cases in 2011.

Investigations usually take year. At least two men have died while waiting for their cases to be heard, according to the newspaper.

Burge and officers who worked under him are alleged to have tortured several, mostly black, suspects in the 1970s and 1980s. He was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for denying knowledge of the torture and was released from federal prison about three years ago after serving a 4 ½-year sentence.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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