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Heinrich Calls Quinn's TIRC 'A Club of Anti-Burge Activists'

A former Geneva police officer says Gov. Pat Quinn's anti-torture commission will "rubber stamp" a decision to seek a re-trial in the 30-year-old murder of Joe Heinrich's sister and brother-in-law.

Disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge is serving a federal prison sentence for lying about the use of torture to coerce statements from suspects by detectives under his direction.

Now, three decades later, the fallout from those acts has led to additional controversy, including an apology from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and questions about the state Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission created in the wake of of the Burge revelations.

The TIRC is looking into the case of Jerry Mahaffey, who reportedly was suffocated with a plastic garbage bag and threatened by detectives under Burge in relation to the 1983 home invasion and murder of Dean and JoEllen Pueschel.

JoEllen is the sister of former Geneva police officer Joe Heinrich, who along with other family members are concerned that the commission may be poised to re-open the case and possibly re-try it — forcing family members to testify again 30 years after the murders.

Heinrich and family members were outraged that they were not informed about the TIRC efforts, in spite of state law that mandates such actions. Their protests led to the resignation of TIRC chair David Thomas.

Family members continued their crusade this week with a letter to Quinn asking that relatives be allowed to speak at TIRC meetings and that he reconsider some of his recent appointments to the commission.

"The commission is basically a club of anti-Burge activists whose shared agenda has now been funded by the taxpayers of Illinois," Heinrich wrote.

Among the family's concerns are that there has never been a criminal prosecutor on the commission and that some of the commission members are biased, having actively campaigned in organizations or courtrooms in protest of the Burge torture practices. 

"I hope that you are willing and able to address these issues before the commission 'rubber stamps' its earlier decision to recommend a new trial for Jerry Mahaffey, 30 years after the crime, in light of the independent evidence of his guilt and extensive judicial review of his claims," Heinrich wrote.

"We will continue to fight for justice and fairness for Dean, JoEllen and Rick Pueschel and for all the victims who are affected by the current rules, procedures and decisions of this commission."

The full text of Heinrich's letter is attached here.


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