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Archive for the ‘Chicago criminal defense’ tag

Illinois Officials to Focus on Criminal Justice System

October 2nd, 2014 at 10:58 am

criminal justice reform, prison reform, Illinois defense attorney, Illinois legal system, It seems officials in the state of Illinois are taking steps to revamp the criminal justice system in a number of ways. Media outlets have reported on the reform, revaluation, and modification of different parts of the criminal justice system, from police procedure to sentencing guidelines to reintroducing criminal defendants back into society after their release from prison. According to a recent reports, efforts to ultimately improve the state’s criminal justice system are continuing with a focus on procedures used by the police and prosecutors in criminal cases.

The Committee

For the first time in Illinois, a committee is being established to recommend the best practices for police departments and prosecutors to use while investigating and collecting evidence in criminal cases in the state of Illinois. The General Assembly enacted legislation to allow the formation of the committee, which will operate out of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office. Joe McMahon, Kane County’s State’s Attorney, is said to be tasked with leading the committee.

Committee’s Focus

The stated goal of forming the committee is to perform these procedures correctly the first time and to re-emphasize to law enforcement officials what their responsibility is in criminal cases. More specifically, McMahon reported that the committee will focus mostly on ethics, interviews of criminal suspects, and collection of evidence related to criminal cases. Evidence collection will include a concentration on social media postings, surveillance video recordings, cellphone tower pings, and DNA swabs. Many aspects of this evidence collection has developed or changed drastically in the last decade or two and deserved renewed attention.

Another area the committee will focus on is lineups of criminal suspects. This may include both live lineups of suspects and photo arrays, though photo lineups are more commonly shown to a victim for identification purposes. Many argue that how the photos are shown for purposes of identification matter, whether the lineup is shown all at once, one at a time, as well as who shows the photos to the victim.

McMahon has expressed a desire to use the committee as an opportunity to develop the best practices in criminal prosecution to avoid some of the problems encountered by criminal defendants in Illinois in the past. Wrongful convictions have been an especially large problem in the state of Illinois, and McMahon acknowledged the same. In addition, he hopes that the committee can offer insight and suggestions to the General Assembly to inspire new legislation in Illinois.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, do not hesitate to secure expert representation. The experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successfully represented clients in Cook County and the surrounding area. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Will Cook County Courtrooms Feature Cameras?

April 29th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

courtroom camera, Cook County courtrooms, justice system, courtroom camera in Cook CountyThe Cook County court system has been experiencing its fair share of problems lately. The latest issue facing Chief Judge Timothy Evans involves awaiting the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision on his request to allow the presence of cameras in the County’s courtrooms. He made that request over two years ago, and the Supreme Court has yet to provide its answer to his application.

Cook County Stands Alone

Cook County’s is the only application that the state’s high court has not approved among the counties who have applied for the permission. Cook County’s application was filed in January 2012, only a few days after the Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed audio and video recordings in courtrooms in certain circumstances.

While Cook County’s application has been pending, several cases were tried in the county that attracted public interest and probably would have produced requests for courtroom cameras. Such cases ranged from murder charges to alleged acts of terrorism.

Why has the Application not been Approved?

The Illinois Supreme Court has said it still needs to work out some issues with approving Cook County’s application as to how the program would function in the largest county in the state. The Court needs to decide whether cameras would be limited to one courtroom, a specific courthouse, or only used in criminal cases. A timetable has not been identified for the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, but the Court intends to have a decision sooner rather than later.

Some of the Court’s reservation in making a decision may be attributable to the fact that not everyone in Cook County is on board with the application. Both the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office have concerns about the potential impact the cameras may have on testimony from victims and witnesses, especially those who fear they may be in danger because of their cooperation. In addition, there is the concern that allowing cameras will do nothing to help the public gain a better understanding of how the justice system works, but will give in to the media’s publicizing of scandalous cases.

While they realize that it is more than likely that cameras will eventually be allowed, they are hopeful that their concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Other counties’ circuit court judges who are participating in the program have approved every request from news outlets to have cameras at hearings, but judges who handle individual cases have later rejected the requests. The trial judges have the final say when making a decision regarding cameras in their courtrooms, and their decisions cannot be appealed.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether cameras will be allowed in Cook County courtrooms and under what circumstances remains to be seen. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to take steps to preserve your rights. You first step should be consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation if you are facing criminal charges in Cook County.

Indirect Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

April 17th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

mandatory minimum sentenceDefendants who are convicted of certain types of crimes – including murder, sex offenses, and drug crimes – face sentences that often include mandatory minimum incarceration time. These are minimum periods of incarceration that leave very little room for judicial discretion or leniency in their imposition, and can amount to decades spent in jail for the defendants.

The intended purposes that are achieved by such mandatory minimum sentences include deterrence, protecting the public, and punishment of the perpetrator. However, such lengthy mandatory sentences also have indirect effects that ripple outward from the defendant. As a recent article discussed, mandatory minimum sentences involve collateral damage to children of defendants who are forced to parent from prison.

A Wave of Incarcerated Parents

Just before the year 2000, there were almost 1.5 million minor children who had a parent that was incarcerated. That number represented an approximate 50 percent increase from the same statistic in 1991. The significant increase is arguable directly correlated to the emergence and imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, which caused an influx of incarcerated individuals as judges’ discretion was severely limited in handing out prison terms.

Mandatory minimums were a response to the rising crime rates and drug problems of the 1980s. The new sentencing structure applied to a wider array of crimes and increased penalties associated with them. This not only caused prison populations to dramatically rise over the next number of years, but also made costs significantly rise as well. The effects on children and families of those incarcerated were occurring simultaneously.

The Effect on Children and Families

Families are more vulnerable as the result of the policy shift towards mandatory minimums. Further, the opportunities and life chances that children of incarcerated parents may otherwise have are greatly reduced. This is not surprising, considering the fact that in cases such as these, the parent-child relationship is almost exclusively limited to phone interaction, if at all. While many credit the current low crime rates as a direct benefit of mandatory minimums, there is a detectable, however slight, shift in thinking when it comes to the harsh penalties.

Society seems to be viewing the policy and considering who should really be behind bars. One problem with mandatory minimum sentences is the ability to abuse them, especially in drug cases. Prosecutors often bolster the facts and weight of the illegal substances, which is directly tied to the length of a mandatory minimum sentence, in order to gain additional information, implicate others, and produce confessions. This could lead to extreme penalties for low-level associates with minor involvement in the drug trade, while other offenders, including rapists, kidnappers, and even murderers, serve just a fraction of the sentence.

Alternatives to Prison

The change in societal thinking toward mandatory minimum sentences is reflected in the formation of non-profit groups and organizations that focus on promoting alternatives to prison and organizing families of prisoners in order to advocate change. Such ideas are gaining popularity among politicians from both sides. The discussion is directed more toward being smart on crime as opposed to being unnecessarily tough on crime. The ideas are most relevant to non-violent offenders who do not have a long criminal history. Bills are being passed to lower mandatory minimums, even making the change retroactive.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Although the public seems to be increasingly in favor of once again giving judges discretion in imposing sentences, others argue that mandatory minimums are still appropriate in cases involving hardened criminals and the most serious crimes. If you are charged with a crime in the Chicago area, it is best to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today and schedule a consultation. We will work diligently to protect your rights.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

February 28th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

criminal hearing, homicide, murder, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, guilty pleaThe Chicago Tribune recently ran an article about a defendant who withdrew his guilty plea in connection with a murder charge. The 22-year-old man, from Aurora, had pled guilty to murdering a woman in October of 2005, when he was just 14 years old.

 Appellate Court Decision

The hearing came in light of last year’s appellate court decision, which stated that the defendant’s 2009 guilty plea was invalid, as it provided for a 45-year minimum sentence, and not the 35-year sentence he should have received as the result of entering a plea to first-degree murder. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case when county prosecutors appealed the appellate court’s decision.

 New Criminal Process

There was a short court hearing on February 11th, which served to reset the criminal process against the defendant in light of the appellate court opinion allowing him to withdraw his plea. It was the first court hearing since the decision.

 Case Background

The defendant’s current charges stem from the murder of an Aurora woman during a home invasion on October 31, 2005. Her body was discovered by law enforcement two months later in Batavia Township. The Defendant, who is a Sudanese immigrant and had a significant juvenile record prior to this incident, was originally arrested for the murder in 2007. When he pled guilty in 2009, he almost immediately tried to withdraw his plea.

 Illinois Law Regarding Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

According to the law in Illinois, certain procedural and legislative requirements have to be met in order for a defendant in a criminal case to  withdraw a guilty plea. A motion to withdraw a guilty plea must be filed within 30 days of the date it is entered. This time limit must be met in order for a judge to even consider hearing the motion.

If the Judge agrees to hear the motion, the defendant must show that the guilty plea was not made knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily. This is usually difficult to do, as criminal procedure usually requires the defendant to be fully informed of the rights he or she is waiving as the result of pleading guilty and the consequences of doing so. Established case law has stated that guilty pleas will not be withdrawn unless it is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.  Therefore, it is usually exceedingly difficult to successfully withdraw a guilty plea once it is entered.

All that being said, while it is difficult to withdraw a guilty plea, it is not impossible, as the case previously mentioned demonstrates. An experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and likelihood for success in light of the facts of your particular case. If you or someone you know is charged with a crime in the state of Illinois, contact us today.

Why bring Minor Felony Charges in Juvenile Court?

January 14th, 2014 at 11:34 am

As we discussed in one of our recent posts about all of the laws set to take effect in the New Year, minors up to age 17 who are charged with certain felony crimes can be tried in juvenile court in Illinois. Previously, 17-year-olds charged with a felony crime were held in county jail with other defendants of all ages, and, if convicted, would have a felony on their record for the rest of their lives. There are many motivations for the change in the law, as Illinois seems to be echoing a change in thinking that is already occurring in states across the nation.

According to an article published by DNA Info Chicago, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s stance on the issue and the support of local politicians had a lot to do with the change, which was voted on by lawmakers in earlier in 2013.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission took the position that since 17-year-olds cannot participate in activities such as vote or play the lottery, join the military, or pierce their ears absent adult permission, they should not be treated as adults under Illinois law for the purposes of committing a crime. The decision was made to handle 17-year-olds faced with felony charges within the confines of the juvenile justice system.  The crimes that will be encompassed in the change may include anything from illegal substance charges to burglary and assault, but will specifically exclude murder and sexual assault.

juvenile crime IMAGEMinors Previously Charged as Adults

Questions are arising about those minors who have been charged with felonies prior to the law taking effect on January 1st, who would otherwise be having their case heard in juvenile court. While the law is not intended to apply to previously filed cases, defense attorneys are pointing out the inherent injustice in that fact. In the cases that are pending in adult court, the defendants are being charged with offenses that, if committed after January 1st, 2014, would have been handled in the juvenile justice system. The only difference lies in the date the alleged offenses were committed. Some defense attorneys are arguing that the charges should be transferred to juvenile court in the cases that are still awaiting trial.

Advantages of Juvenile Court

The juvenile justice system allows for offenders with pending cases to continue their education and to take advantage of services provided by local agencies. Further, a minor having their case handled in juvenile court gives them the opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal record that can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.  Otherwise, they can lose a lot of future opportunities and face a bleak future, one with severely limited job prospects. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission points out that minors placed in juvenile detention are more likely to make a positive change in their behavior that they would be if they were incarcerated in a county or state prison.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a juvenile crime in Illinois, hiring a criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile matters is essential. Not only can we ensure your rights are protected in light of any changes in the law, but we can defend your case to the fullest extent. Contact us today for a consultation.

The Drug Trade in Chicago

January 3rd, 2014 at 10:22 am

Many people consider the Chicago area notorious for drugs, and more specifically the abuse of heroin. In fact, citizens in the Chicago area suffer the highest number of heroin overdoses across the country. An interesting article recently published by the Chicago Reader examined the state of Chicago’s “thriving heroin business” and the history of the issue over the last 100 years.

 drug trafficking in Chicago IMAGEOver the last century, Chicago’s heroin business has been able to change and thrive despite the measures aimed at curbing the behavior, including legal restrictions, increased law enforcement, and societal changes. Illegal drug markets began developing in the early twentieth century in marked areas of Chicago. Police were forced to strike a balance between cracking down on users and confining the activity to the known areas with known users and known criminal histories.

When Congress began passing restrictions on the trade of opiates in the 1920s, criminal organizations began dominating the business by smuggling the drugs, sometimes internationally. In the next 40 years, there was a shift in population in the west side of Chicago, with the area becoming predominantly African-American by 1965. Overall, the area suffered losses in jobs as a result of hundreds of companies closing. With the economy declining, the market for illegal drugs flourished.

Eventually, the organized crime families stepped away from the drug trade in favor of having gangs handle the business for them.  Instead of selling drugs on the street as was done in the past, buyers would call dealers to arrange a purchase, decide on a meet location, exchange a code and make the exchange through an opening in the door. Perhaps not surprisingly, gang and drug-related violence increased dramatically in the early 1970s, and in 1974, Chicago experienced the city’s highest number of annual murders.

The 1980s and 1990s brought another change in the drug business. Colombian and Mexican cartels took over drug trafficking into Chicago. Increased competition in Chicago forced the sale of drugs outdoors, usually in public housing complexes or other distressed neighborhoods. Incidents of violence spiked again, and it seemed drug sales were a commonplace occurrence happening everywhere.

By the early 2000s, many of the gang leaders heavily involved in the drug trade were incarcerated and gang structure was weakened. The rates of violence began to decline overall. The drug business is no longer strongly tied to a specific group, but now often involves different gangs participating in the business together.

People not only in Chicago, but across the state of Illinois and across the country, continue to struggle with and suffer from the use and abuse of drugs. As criminal defense attorneys, we have experience in defending clients who have been charged with numerous drug-related crimes. We are prepared to discuss your case with you and advise you of your rights. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, contact us today for a consultation.

Chicago Police Create Social Media Tool to Stop Crime

October 16th, 2013 at 7:00 am

chicago-gang-social-media-toolAccording to Reuters, Chicago continues to boast the highest murder rate in the country, in spite of a 22 percent drop earlier this year. Most of this Illinois criminal violence is attributed to gang wars. It is currently estimated that there are as many as 630 different gang factions fighting for territory within the city of Chicago. In an effort to reduce the number of gang-related crimes within the city, Chicago police are now turning to a new social media tool.

Chicago police worked closely with local sociologists in order to develop the tool, which is known as “network analysis,” according to Governing magazine. It works similarly to Facebook’s graphic search tool, and allows members of the Chicago Police Department to map the relationships between the city’s most active gang members and predict their behavior based on a number of factors. This prediction tool allows them to not only see which gang members are most likely to become violent; it allows them to see which ones are likely to become victims as well.

Based on information gained from the new analysis tool, Chicago police have begun visiting with not only potentially violent gang members, but people determined to be influential to them such as close family members and friends as well. In addition to having conversations with these people, they leave a letter that serves as a reminder of what could happen should they be arrested again. Additionally, the police department has changed the way they respond to crimes; instead of flocking to the scene of a recent murder, they deploy officers around the locations and individuals where the tool suggests the next violence will occur.

Though this tool is meant to prevent crime, no tool is perfect. Crime can still occur, and mistakes can be made. If you or someone you know has been accused of a violent crime, don’t try to deal with it on your own. Contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney right away.

Teenage Man Charged in Infant’s Homicide

October 4th, 2013 at 11:52 am

A 17-year-old man was ordered held on $500,000 bail after being charged in the death of a infant whose death was ruled a homicide, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Willie Brown is facing charges in the death of 4-month-old Demari Brown after Demari died while in the sole care of Brown in late September. Prosecutors allege that after Brown killed the infant he proceeded to play video games “after the severely battered baby… stopped crying and eventually died,” reports the Sun-Times. Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kent told the Sun-Times that Demari was Brown’s girlfriend’s baby, though police reported that Brown was the child’s father. “When Demari’s mother asked Brown what he did to her baby at the hospital where the infant was transported he allegedly cried and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” reports the Sun-Times.

Brown was the only one home with the child when the incident occurred, and police reported after the baby was found that Demari had suffered “blunt trauma to the head, a linear fracture to the skull, subdural hemorrhages, rib fractures and healing fractures to other ribs and a wrist,” according to the Sun-Times. This has led some prosecutors to allege that the baby had suffered abuse before the incident that took his life. The Illinois Department of Children & Family Services was “investigating the boy’s mother, Brown, and grandmother for allegations of abuse,” reports the Sun-Times, though the family has no other prior allegations of child abuse.

According to the MCH Center for Child Death Review, more than 2,000 kids die in the United States each year after allegations of abuse or neglect. The most common form of physical abuse manifests as head injuries, known as abusive head trauma. “These injuries occur when a child’s head is slammed against a surface, is severely struck, or when a child is violently shaken,” according to the MCH Center.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime such as this, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Don’t go through it alone. Contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney today.

Chicago Grandmother Accused of Killing Girl

July 16th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

A Chicago grandmother, Helen M. Ford, 51, is being held on no bail and is facing a murder charge in the death of her granddaughter, according to the New York Daily News. According to the Daily News, Ford had been inflicting “abuse for so long that the dead little girl had maggots living in a head wound that had gone untreated.” The girl, Gizzell Kiara Ford, was eight years old. She was dead, and her body had already gone cold, when cops responded to a call of a person not breathing, according to the Daily News. “The girl lived with her grandmother and bedridden father, both of whom were home when the girl died,” reports the Daily News. “Ford initially told cops the girl inflicted the injuries herself, but police found several bruises, burns, and cuts on her body, lying face up in a bedroom in the home.”  Chicago Grandmother Accused of Killing Girl IMAGE

In a shocking case, police revealed that “some of the blunt force trauma happened so long ago that maggots had hatched in a head wound and moved to the front of the girl’s scalp while she was still living… the horrific list of abuse also included deep cuts on her buttocks, ligature marks on her ankles and wrists and possible cigarette burns on her body,” reports the Daily News. The official cause of death, according to the Chicago Tribune, was strangulation and several blunt trauma injuries from child abuse and neglect. According to the Tribune, “Helen Ford told police her granddaughter was upset that her mother was not visiting her and would run into furniture in the apartment and bang her head on things,” which investigators quickly ruled out.

According to childhelp–usa.com, “every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, involving nearly 6 million children.” That’s the worst record in any industrialized nation in the world, with five child deaths every day due to abuse-related causes.

If you or someone you know has been accused of child abuse, don’t go through it alone. Contact a dedicated Chicago criminal defense attorney today.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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