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updated: 12/30/2013 4:54 PM

New director named to Illinois torture commission

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  • Barry Miller

      Barry Miller

Associated Press

A former federal prosecutor who most recently has worked as a Harvard University attorney has been picked to lead an Illinois commission investigating allegations of torture by Chicago police officers, the commission said Monday.

Barry Miller's selection as executive director of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission comes three months after the previous director resigned amid criticism that the panel wasn't properly reporting cases. Miller will start in his new role on Thursday, the commission said in an emailed statement.

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Miller, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School, has been a Harvard attorney since 2009. Before that, he spent nine years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. He has also served as a partner at a Chicago law firm and as an attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

"The Commission carried out a thorough search for a new executive director. We were very pleased to be able to offer the position to Barry Miller, who brings a wealth of unique experience as both a federal prosecutor and civil rights attorney," the commission's chair, Cook County Judge Cheryl Starks, said in the statement.

Miller takes over for David Thomas, who resigned in September amid criticism that the panel wasn't alerting relatives of homicide victims that the victims' cases were being examined. The law requires the commission do so. Gov. Pat Quinn -- who appoints the commission -- had called on Thomas to resign earlier in September because of the notification issue

"I look forward to working with the members of the Commission to carry out TIRC's important mission," Miller said in a statement. "It is crucial that we always follow the law and be fair to everyone involved."

He declined to comment further.

The commission was created four years ago amid allegations that former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and several subordinates had tortured suspects -- nearly all of them black -- including by pointing loaded guns at them. No Chicago police officers were convicted of torturing suspects, but Burge is serving time in a federal prison after being convicted of perjury related to testimony he gave in a civil case involving allegations of torture.

The commission has had troubles in the past.

Last year, the state legislature stripped the commission's funding as it tried to cut costs. But after lobbying from the panel's supporters, lawmakers approved the new money earlier this year.

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