EDITORIAL: Freedom for one man; 462 torture cases to go for state commission

SHARE EDITORIAL: Freedom for one man; 462 torture cases to go for state commission
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Jaime Hauad | Illinois Department of Corrections

The decision Thursday to release Jaime Hauad from prison is an important step in the process of reviewing troubling police torture-related convictions. Illinois needs to see that process through to the finish.

Hauad, 37, was convicted 19 years ago of killing two Maniac Latin Disciples outside an Avondale bar and sentenced to life without parole. But in 2014, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission found strong evidence police had tortured Hauad and some evidence he was altogether innocent.

EDITORIAL

Nothing happened right away because the commission didn’t have authority over torture cases that didn’t involve former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Hauad’s case involved Joseph Miedzianowski, who went on to be labeled the most corrupt cop in Chicago history and who is serving a life sentence.

As a result, when Hauad filed a post-conviction petition to overturn his conviction, the courts shot it down. But in doing so, an Illinois Appellate Court panel said the doubtful case needed a lot more investigation.

In 2016, the Legislature expanded the commission’s authority to cover cases like Hauad’s, and in November the Torture Inquiry Commission again ruled there was evidence of police torture and sent Hauad’s case to the Cook County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, the Conviction Integrity Unit under Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had re-investigated the case. Based on the results of that re-investigation, prosecutors on Thursday agreed to a new sentence of time served, which means Hauad will be freed from the Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro.

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Both Foxx and the Torture Inquiry Commission deserve credit for doggedly digging into this case. Hauad, who has maintained his innocence, can go on to seek a certificate of exoneration.

But the shadow of long-ago police torture still hangs over Cook County.

Since the Legislature created the commission in 2009, its work has been slowed by an unconscionable series of hurdles. Commissioners weren’t appointed for nearly a year. In June 2012, the Legislature stripped the funding. Even after funding was restored, former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez put on a new set of brakes with an unnecessary fight over who would represent the state’s side during evidentiary hearings. Then, the commission’s executive director was forced out and all work stopped for months until a new one was appointed.

As of Wednesday, the commission has 462 cases that need to be investigated and resolved. The Hauad case shows the importance of moving forward as quickly as possible. Many of the people who claimed they were tortured by police have been in prison for decades. The Legislature should beef up the torture inquiry commission’s staff to ensure those cases don’t languish for years more.

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