Torture Commission Vote May Free Another Police Shooter
The controversial Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC), whose vote paved the way for the release of a notorious police killer earlier this year, voted Wednesday to give another convicted police shooter a bid for freedom.
TIRC commissioners voted unanimously to refer the case of Marcellus Pittman back to the criminal courts for an evidentiary hearing on the claim that he was coerced into confessing to the Halloween shooting of Chicago Police Officer Patrick Doyle in 2001. Doyle was shot in the chest, but was saved from a potentially mortal wound by his bulletproof vest. Doyle and his partner were breaking up an egg fight at the time near Washington Park on the South Side.
Claiming that the detectives who investigated the case have a “pattern and practice” of complaints against them, the attorneys assigned to investigate Pittman’s claims, Nusra Ismail and Rebecca Dandy of the law firm of Vedder Price, recommended that Pittman’s case be referred for an evidentiary hearing. That means a criminal court judge will decide whether Pittman will get a new trial.
Prosecutors are often hesitant to retry old cases. The FOP has argued that current Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx has rolled over on many alleged police misconduct cases.
The TIRC vote comes in the wake of the release of Jackie Wilson earlier this year based upon a TIRC decision that referred Andrew Wilson’s case back to the courts. Jackie Wilson and his brother Andrew were convicted twice for the murders of Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien in 1982. Jackie Wilson’s conviction was overturned by Cook County Criminal Court Judge William Hooks, who also granted Wilson bond pending a retrial, meaning that Wilson is now out of prison.
Wilson and his brother Andrew were convicted twice of the murders of Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien in 1982. Jackie Wilson’s conviction was overturned by Cook County Criminal Court Judge William Hooks, who also granted Wilson bond pending a retrial.
TIRC was created by the state legislature in 2009 to investigate torture allegations against former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men. The commission, though, has generated criticism by the FOP and many prosecutors as a politically motivated, arbitrary, and unconstitutional panel that undermines the criminal justice system. In 2016, the scope of the commission was expanded to any case within Cook County.
Under TIRC, commissioners—some of whom have a strong connection to law firms that regularly sue the police department based on claims of police misconduct—have the power to toss long-settled cases back into the courts when the commission rules that claims by offenders that they were coerced into confessing have merit.
These TIRC decisions often fly in the face of the investigations and rulings of detectives, prosecutors, juries, judges, and appeals courts.
Pittman’s claims seem to fit the bill. The debate that led to the decision to refer the case back to the courts boiled down to the fact that the detectives involved in the case have a “pattern and practice” of allegations of misconduct. That’s about all it takes to get offenders out of prison, even offenders convicted of shooting police officers.
In an insightful comment on the feasibility of Pittman’s claims in light of the motions by his attorneys and his own statements, TIRC commissioner Marcie Thorp pointed out that three public defenders who handled Pittman’s case never mentioned that he had been physically coerced. Attorneys presenting the case to the commission also mentioned that Pittman wrote a letter to an attorney about his case and never mentioned being physically coerced.
Commissioner Craig Futterman from the University of Chicago Law School, immediately countered the argument. Futterman said that omitting such crucial claims from motions by the public defenders is not unusual.
During their presentation, Ismail and Dandy repeatedly referred to the “history” of the accused detectives’ behavior, detectives who have never been convicted of wrongdoing, as Pittman has.
Ismail and Dandy were confronted by FOP Second Vice President Martin Preib outside the hearing for these statements, which they refused to address.
The statements by the attorneys and the discussion and vote by the commissioners also failed to address the “pattern and practice” of alleged corruption in wrongful conviction cases that has emerged in two federal lawsuits, a pattern the FOP has demanded public servants and the media to address. So, too, has TIRC refused to address this evidence.
Also speaking at the hearing was an attorney for Pittman from the law firm of Loevy & Loevy, Julia Rickert, whose law firm stands to make millions from a lawsuit arising from Pittman’s claims of abuse.