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Ill. torture panel head resigns after criticism

Published: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 5:23 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO (AP) — The executive director of an Illinois commission investigating allegations of torture by police has resigned after criticisms that the panel wasn't properly reporting cases that were being examined.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Thursday that the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission's executive director David Thomas "did the right thing" in stepping down from his post.

Thomas quit in a closed session Wednesday. His resignation, effective Tuesday, comes after he faced scrutiny because the panel wasn't alerting relatives of murder victims that the victims' cases were being examined. The law requires that the commission do so.

The commission was set up four years ago after allegations that former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and several subordinates tortured suspects — nearly all of them black — including by pointing loaded guns at them or shocking their genitals with electrical current.

Earlier this month Quinn called on Thomas to resign because of the notification issue. The commission — appointed by Quinn — will chose a replacement.

"It's up to the commission to hire the executive director, and I hope they find a good person who understands the importance of balance and following the law," he told reporters after an unrelated event Thursday.

Commission member Leonard Cavise said Thomas resigned during a contentious closed meeting.

Relatives of Dean and Jo Ellen Pueschel, who were beaten to death with baseball bats in 1983, spoke at the hearing, Cavise said. Their son, who was 11 at the time of the attack and who was beaten unconscious but survived, did not speak. Cavise said family members of a Chicago police officer who was killed in 1982 also spoke.

After the closed session, another commission member, Rob Warden, apologized to the family members for the failure to notify them, but said it was an "inadvertent" mistake.

Last year, the state Legislature stripped the commission's funding as it sought to cut costs. But after lobbying from the panel's supporters, lawmakers approved the new money this year.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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