Studs' Last Stand

12/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In what may have been his last public act, Studs Terkel joined a call on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to resolve the cases of Burge torture victims who've been incarcerated for decades based on coerced confessions.

Studs was one of scores of human rights advocates who signed a new report on the continuing failure of public officials to deal with Chicago's torture scandal (pdf). The report was released October 29, a week after the federal indictment of Jon Burge and two days before Studs died.

The report calls on Madigan to agree to new hearings for nearly 25 men who remain in prison based on tortured confessions. Madigan's office has claimed to be reviewing the cases for five years, since she was appointed to represent the state after the Cook County State's Attorney was recused. In all that time, Madigan has agree to hearings for two individuals, one of whom has been released from prison. The report points out that the Los Angeles District Attorney took two years to review 1,500 cases tainted by a recent police corruption scandal there.

The report also calls for the city to stop funding the civil defense of Burge and company ($10 million to date), terminate their pension payments (another $10 million) It calls on the city, along with Cook County, to establish a fund for compensating and treating torture victims, many of whom are jobless and suffering symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and some of whom are sick and homeless.

Studs spent his life giving voice to the concerns of the voiceless, and it's a mark of his consistency that in his final days he stood up for men who were denied fair trials decades ago who continue to be denied legal recourse. It would be a fitting tribute to him to listen to his call.