Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge departs the federal building in Chicago on May 24, 2010, (Charles Rex Arbogast~AP)
No one wanted to handle the alleged Jon Burge torture cases. Not Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Not the state appellate prosecutor. Not the state's attorneys of 12 counties.
So on Tuesday, Cook County Criminal Courts Chief Judge Paul Biebel Jr., back to Square One, appointed retired Judge Stuart A. Nudelman as special prosecutor to handle the state's side of the cases. If there is a sense of deja vu here, it's because Biebel previously - back in 2009 - also had appointed Nudelman as a special prosecutor in different Burge-related torture cases. (A number of those cases have been disposed of since then.)
But more than 100 men still claim they've been languishing in prison because of statements extracted through torture by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Burge and his Midnight Crew in the 1970s and 1980s. The process of investigating these men's claims, though, had ground to a halt.
Tuesday's ruling will get things moving forward again in two ways.
It will allow the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission to go ahead and investigate additional complaints it has received. The commission already has found five cases in which it concluded torture claims are credible. On May 15, it is scheduled to report its findings on 10 more.
Biebel also set May 21 to begin briefings about the merits of a class action claim led by the MacArthur Justice Center and the People's Law Office. The class action case would wrap Burge cases into a single class-action lawsuit and have evidentiary hearings in every one. Former Gov. James R. Thompson, former U.S. Attorneys Thomas Sullivan and Dan Webb, former Chicago Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek and others support the idea.
Follow BackTalk on Twitter@CST_Editorials