The petition is the first of its kind in Cook County and represents the only way to bring closure to "the scandal that won't end," said Locke Bowman, of the university's MacArthur Justice Center.
"None of these men has ever had a full or fair hearing," Bowman said at a news conference at the law school's downtown campus. "It is time, it is past time, to have closure on the Burge scandal."
The petition, filed before presiding Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel, asks the court to establish a process to ensure that every Burge victim still incarcerated is given a fair hearing to determine whether his conviction rests on a confession wrongly obtained through torture or physical abuse.
Joey Mogul, partner at the People's Law Office and an attorney in the class-action petition, said the petitioners are asking Biebel to "abandon legal technicalities" that often bog down post-conviction proceedings and go directly to the heart of the matter of whether a defendant was tortured, she said.
The petition cites other examples across the country in which lawyers, prosecutors and judges have come together following a police scandal to individually examine cases involving the tainted officers and take corrective action.
Mogul called it an "embarrassment" that Cook County prosecutors have fought the idea of such a proceeding.
"It is unconscionable for us to do nothing," Mogul said.
Representatives of the state's attorney's office were not immediately available for comment.
Bowman said it was still being determined how many Burge victims are still in prison, but he estimated there are "scores."
"They are a forgotten group of men," Bowman said.
One of two named petitioners is Johnnie Plummer, who was 15 when he was arrested for a 1991 murder and beaten with a flashlight by two detectives working under Burge, Mogul said. He later tried to have his confession thrown out, but the judge allowed it at trial and Plummer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
His mother, Jeanette Plummer, held up her son's photograph today and begged the court to let her son have a new hearing.
"It's not fair. Twenty-one years is wasted," she said. "My son needs to come home."
Burge, 64, was convicted in 2010 on federal charges for lying under oath about the torture allegations and is serving a 4 1/2–year prison sentence.