A former Geneva police officer whose sister was sexually assaulted and murdered 30 years ago says Gov. Pat Quinn's latest appointments to the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission have a history bias against law enforcers and victims' rights.
Former Geneva police Detective Sgt. Joe Heinrich and his family have issues with two of Quinn's three new appointees to the commission, which is presently looking into allegations that Jerry Mahaffey — one of the two men convicted of murdering Heinrich's sister, JoEllen, and her husband, Dean Pueschel — was tortured during the police investigation more than 30 years ago.
The commission's decision potentially could result in a retrial for Mahaffey.
Heinrich, as well as his sister-in-law, Dawn Pueschel, and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez wrote Quinn, noting the commission admitted that it had started its investigation into the torture allegations without notifying family members of the victims, as required by law.
Quinn called the oversight "a gross failure of the law" and responded by calling for the resignation of Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Director David Thomas.
Now, Quinn is replacing three members of the TIRC. The new appointees are:
- Fr. Chuck Dahm, a pastor at St. Pius V Parish who also serves as president of the Board of Directors for the Resurrection Project, an economic development organization. He holds a M.A. in Philosophy and a M.A. in Theology from the Aquinas Institute of Rochester and a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin.
- John Mathias, a partner and attorney at Jenner & Block, LLP. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Dartmouth College.
- Marcie Thorp, an attorney with the law firm Smith Amundsen, LLC and a former Assistant States Attorney with the Cook County States Attorney's Office. She holds a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law, and a B.S. from the University of Illinois.
The Heinrich and Pueschel families day Dahm and Mathias would not be impartial members of the TIRC.
Dahm is a war protestor who "filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Rock Island and several of its police officers claiming that he was the victim of false arrest, malicious prosecution and strip-search," the families' letter says.
He is also co-founder of the 8th Day Center for Justice in Illinois, which family members suggest shows bias: "This organization lists as their partners the Illinois Coalition Against Torture and the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty."
They says Mathias "comes to the table with his own personal agenda. His law firm, Jenner and Block, has had a significant role as an advocate in the very issues that face the Commission." Six partners of Jenner and Block have signed on as amici on a brief filed in Cook County Circuit Court on October 16, 2012, on behalf of “the class of still-incarcerated victims of (former Chicago Police Commander) Jon Burge and Burge’s detectives."
The letter from Heinrich and family members says they believe Thorp "is likely a legitimate candidate" but it would be "disingenuous" to call her a prosector. "It is our understanding that Ms. Thorp has never tried a criminal case," the letter said.
On Aug. 29, 1983, JoEllen and Dean Pueschel were murdered in their Chicago home in the presence of their 11-year-old son, Rick. The Pueschels were savagely beaten, JoEllen was sexually assaulted, and Rick "was forced to witness this horrific crime while also being stabbed and beaten with baseball bats," Alvarez wrote in a letter to Quinn.
Reginald and Jerry Mahaffey were convicted of the crimes in 1985 and sent to death row, until Gov. George Ryan commuted the death sentences of all death row inmates in 2003.
In July of this year, the TIRC determined there was "credible evidence" to suggest that Jerry Mahaffey was tortured during the investigation.
Full Text of Heinrich's E-Mail Letter to Gov. Pat Quinn
September 23, 2013
The Honorable Patrick Quinn
Governor of the State of Illinois
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706-1150
Dear Governor Quinn:
When we first heard you call for the resignation of the Executive Director of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) and promise three new appointments that would better balance the board, we were confident that you sought to make the TIRC an impartial commission that would seek justice rather than any personal agendas. We specifically requested that one of
the appointees have significant experience as a victim advocate and that another appointee be a former assistant state’s attorney with significant experience in prosecuting criminal cases.
You have proposed three new appointments: Marcie Thorp, Father Dahm and John Mathias, a partner at Jenner & Block. We are not criticizing any of these individuals, but we are concerned that these three appointments do not accomplish the goal of establishing an impartial commission.
Ms. Thorp is already a member of the TIRC as an alternate. She is likely a legitimate candidate to fill the designated seat for someone from the general public, and if she is appointed to that seat, we would support such an appointment.
But we believe that it would be disingenuous for you to appoint Ms. Thorp to fill the seat designated for a voting commissioner with prosecutorial experience. It is our understanding that Ms. Thorp has never tried a criminal case, has no experience as a criminal prosecutor, and spent her time at the States Attorney’s Office in the civil division, defending the county on medical malpractice cases. Thus, she does not legitimately fill the role of a person with prosecutorial experience. If you need recommendations for a former prosecutor, we will be happy to provide several excellent suggestions.
In 1986, Father Charles Dahm and ten other anti-war protestors filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Rock Island and several of its police officers claiming that he was the victim of false arrest, malicious prosecution and strip-search. In 1990, the parties reached a settlement of $105,000. Father Dahm was represented by The People’s Law Office, the same law office that has been deeply involved in the Burge torture issue. Father Dahm was also arrested on April 27, 2010, at a protest in Broadview, Illinois, regarding immigrant deportation. He is co-founder of the 8th Day Center for Justice in Illinois. This organization lists as their partners the Illinois Coalition Against Torture and the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
Father Dahm’s political agenda and arrest record as well as his experience of filing suit against law enforcement officers raises serious doubt as to his ability to be a neutral, fair and impartial Commissioner.
Father Dahm’s homilies and presentations about domestic violence are noble but do not come close to qualifying as victim advocacy. We cannot
support the proposed appointment of Father Dahm.
Unfortunately, we also cannot support the proposed appointment of John Mathias, partner at Jenner and Block. Although Mr. Mathias undoubtedly has impressive credentials, he also undoubtedly comes to the table with his own personal agenda. His law firm, Jenner and Block, has had a significant role as an advocate in the very issues that face the Commission. Six partners of Jenner and Block have signed on as amici on a brief filed in Cook County Circuit Court on October 16, 2012, on behalf of “the class of still-incarcerated victims of Jon Burge and Burge’s detectives."
Two attorneys with Jenner and Block signed on as amici in a brief (People of Illinois v Stanley Wrice) regarding Burge torture allegations. In addition to advocating in the area of confessions and Burge issues, Jenner and Block had a significant role in Governor Ryan's Commission on the Death Penalty issue — its partner, Thomas Sullivan, headed the Commission, and Jenner performed substantial work for the Commission. There can be no doubt: Mr. Mathias, who personally headed the ABA Committee on Death Penalty Reform, does not come to the table with a fresh and open mind.
We remind you that the TIRC web site states as follows: “The State of Illinois and Governor Pat Quinn are committed to fairly and impartially investigating a claim by any person who alleges that he or she has been tortured…” Additionally, “This website will give you information about our mission to provide a neutral forum to investigate and determine the credibility of such
claims…” (TIRC website) Individuals that even have the appearance of conflict of interest should be deemed unqualified to serve. And, if appointees have a potential conflict or agenda, as it would appear some of these do, then their appointments are not made with the spirit of your stated commitment or the
declared mission of the TIRC.
Once again, we are adamant that one of the appointees have significant experience as a victim advocate, and that another appointee be a former assistant state’s attorney with significant experience in prosecuting criminal cases.
We are confident that you can locate and appoint qualified citizens with no agenda or bias.
Therefore, we request again that you use your appointment powers to make the TIRC an impartial, fair commission that serves justice. You owe it not just to the victims, but to the taxpayers of Illinois who pay for this Commission. They have a right to a fair and impartial commission, not one filled with Commissioners who use public funds to further their agenda.
We appreciate your consideration.
The Heinrich and Pueschel Families, on behalf of JoEllen and Dean Pueschel
cc: The Honorable Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney (via email)