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Police torture commission boss David Thomas resigns

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The head of the Illinois torture commission resigned Wednesday after an I-Team report revealed shoddy treatment of the family of a murder victim. Illinois is the only state in the nation with a torture board.

Officially named the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, appointees of the governor look at a narrow spectrum of murder cases tinged by police brutality and determine whether to recommend the cases be re-examined in court. Late Wednesday afternoon, the embattled executive director of the commission, Dave Thomas, turned in his resignation. Nearly two weeks after the I-Team broke the story that Governor Quinn wanted Thomas out.

"Therefore, I happily tender my resignation as of September 30, 2013," said David Thomas, outgoing torture board director.

Thomas is resigning with Governor Pat Quinn's foot on his behind. As paid director of the commission that reviews cases of police torture, Mr. Thomas had become the focus of angry, emotional complaints from the relatives of murder victims.

"We are outraged, we think the people of Illinois would be outraged if they knew what we know," said Joe Heinrich, murder victim's brother.

Family members of three murder victims said they had been boxed out of the process, even though state law required the torture board to include them.

When the I-Team uncovered the story two weeks ago, Governor Quinn weighed in: executive director Thomas was to resign or be fired by the board that Quinn appointed.

Even though some board members bucked at that, after a closed-door meeting with Quinn's board on Wednesday, Thomas resigned. Then he and apologetic commissioners took a tongue lashing from family members.

"We're here to demand reform from a commission that is out of control," said Heinrich, brother of murder victim.

"I was in shock. I was in utter disbelief that we didn't have the common courtesy to find out about this when it's in the Illinois Constitutional Rights, section 8.1, for the Crime Victims Act," said Dawn Pueschell, sister of murder victim.

Relatives of Chicago police officer William Fahey, murdered during a traffic stop in 1982, were among those who were never notified that the killer was looking for relief from the Illinois torture board.

"It's extremely hard for me to even speak of it today," said Mike Fahey, brother of murder victim.

"This process can't go on like that. I find it truly regrettable and insulting that my family found out in this manner, and that they have to go through this process," said John Fahey, brother of murder victim.

The torture board was still meeting as of 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. In the cases of those three families who testified Wednesday, it is expected that the commission will set aside their recommendation that those murder cases be re-opened.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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