Obituaries |Robert Boyle: 1936 - 2007
Co-wrote report on police torture
He found statute of limitations on prosecuting former commander and officers had expired
Sunday, December 02, 2007
by Trevor Jensen
Robert Boyle, a high-ranking assistant with the Cook County state's attorney's office in the 1960s, co-wrote a 2006 report that confirmed systematic torture of criminal suspects by Chicago police.
Mr. Boyle, 71, who specialized in corporate law at his private practice for the last 37 years, died Friday, Nov. 30, apparently of a heart attack in his Lincolnwood home, his son Tom said.In 2002, he put much of his practice on hold when he was tapped as first assistant to special prosecutor Edward Egan for an investigation into long-simmering allegations of torture by officers under former Cmdr. Jon Burge on the South Side.
The investigation went on for four years and resulted in a 290-page report that supported claims of torture made by convicted cop killer Andrew Wilson and others and accused former Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek of a "dereliction of duty" for not investigating torture allegations.
The report concluded that the statute of limitations prevented Burge and the other officers accused of torture from being prosecuted. Critics cried whitewash, but Boyle and Egan stood behind their work. This month they issued an 82-page rebuttal to the complaints.
Egan and Mr. Boyle had been reluctant to take on the special prosecutor's task. Judge Paul Biebel Jr. recruited Egan first. Egan, a former prosecutor and judge, was 79 and said that if he took the job he would need a younger assistant.
He turned to Boyle, whom he had hired at the state's attorney's office in 1962 and remained close with ever since. Biebel invoked the need to restore public trust, and both men signed on.
"We both realized that [the torture allegations were] a thing that was not going to go away. It was a festering sore," Egan said.
Given the scrutiny the investigation would receive, Egan said his assistant would need a sterling reputation in the legal and law enforcement communities and be able to stand the heat.
"To me, one of the most important qualities is courage," Egan said. "You do the right thing, no matter what. And he felt the same way."
Mr. Boyle grew up on the Northwest Side and was a star sprinter at St. Ignatius College Prep, contributing to the school's 1953 Catholic League championship in track and field. His speed in the short dashes won him an athletic scholarship to Loyola University, where he earned a law degree.
A few years after Egan hired him as an assistant with the Cook County state's attorney's office, Mr. Boyle was assigned to the courtroom of Egan, who was a judge. The younger attorney's trial acumen impressed Egan.
"He was simply natural. There was no pretense about him, and that came across to the jury," he said.
In 1969, Mr. Boyle was promoted from deputy chief to chief of the criminal division. A year later, he started his own practice. After years in the criminal arena, he shifted to corporate work.
"He became a real expert in banking and hospital administration, all self-taught," Egan said.
Though he dabbled in politics behind the scenes, Mr. Boyle never wanted to run for office, his son said. Criticisms of the Burge report didn't faze him.
"He was proud of the report. He felt they did a very good job," his son said.
Other survivors include his wife, Mary Joan; three sons, Robert, James and William; two daughters, Megan and Kathleen; and 14 grandchildren.
Visitation is scheduled for 3 to 9 p.m. Monday in Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 6150 N. Cicero Ave., Chicago. Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Queen of All Saints Basilica, 6280 N. Sauganash Ave., Chicago.