Chicago mayor says people charged with violent crimes ‘are guilty’

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot escalated her ongoing feud with the Cook County legal courts system on Monday when she mentioned judges shouldn’t enable people charged with violent crimes out on bail as a result of they’re responsible if they’ve been charged.

“We shouldn’t be locking up nonviolent individuals just because they can’t afford to pay bail. But, given the exacting standards that the state’s attorney has for charging a case, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, when those charges are brought, these people are guilty,” Lightfoot mentioned. “Of course they’re entitled to a presumption of innocence. Of course they’re entitled to their day in court. But residents in our community are also entitled to safety from dangerous people, so we need to keep pressing the criminal courts to lock up violent dangerous people and not put them out on bail or electronic monitoring back into the very same communities where brave souls are mustering the courage to come forward and say, ‘this is the person who is responsible.’ ”

Letting people who’ve been charged with violent crimes out on bond “undermines the legitimacy of the criminal courts,” she mentioned.

“If we hold violent dangerous people accountable, we will see a significant drop in the violence in our city,” Lightfoot mentioned. “But when you’ve got somebody who’s accused of murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, carjacking, as is now, these people are walking the streets right now today in our communities because our criminal courts are not doing their job and taking into consideration the danger to the community.”

Lightfoot’s feedback are noteworthy as a result of the legal justice system operates beneath the presumption of innocence for suspects, and Chicago has a protracted historical past of police misconduct that has led to wrongful convictions. The mayor made the feedback in response to a question about three regulation enforcement officers being shot in separate incidents over the previous week. A scarcity of accountability within the courts system has made criminals brazen, Lightfoot mentioned.

Lightfoot was talking at a information convention at St. Sabina Church the place she introduced new particulars of a $5.3 million program to help residents and business homeowners in buying non-public safety units for his or her properties.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois criticized Lightfoot’s feedback, saying it’s “sad to see a highly-trained lawyer and former prosecutor so badly mangle the meaning of our Constitution.”

In her assertion, Alexandra Block, senior supervising lawyer, ACLU of Illinois, famous that the town has paid giant settlements to people who’ve been wrongfully convicted due to Chicago police misconduct.

“But what may be most troubling is the mayor’s ongoing attack on bail reform. Individuals who have not been convicted of a crime are constitutionally entitled to an individualized determination about whether they can safely be released to the community. Bail reform returns people to their homes and jobs, allowing individuals and families to remain afloat.

“Seeking easy answers to political pressures about gun violence, the mayor has repeatedly attacked bail reform, often with phony data,” Block continued. “Mayor Lightfoot would be best served turning her energies to implementing real change in CPD and building relationships with community — essential steps for effective policing. Instead of searching for real solutions, she constantly searches for a scapegoat — whether it is the courts or youth across the city.”

Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell’s office famous that false confessions have additionally been used to maintain people who’re wrongly charged locked up.

“Chicago is the false confession capital of the nation. For decades the city has shamefully disregarded the presumption of innocence — which applies to everyone, regardless of the charge against them,” an announcement from Mitchell’s office mentioned. “As an attorney, the mayor knows that the criminal justice system is not designed to decide guilt early in a case. In fact, in the past year the Cook County public defender’s office represented people in more than 11,000 cases that ended in dismissal or a finding of not guilty.”

Since turning into mayor in 2019, Lightfoot has repeatedly criticized the Cook County courts for permitting violent offenders and people charged with sure gun crimes to bond out of jail. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans has beforehand responded to criticism from the mayor by saying that it’s unconstitutional to carry somebody pretrial “without a finding that the defendant poses a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person.”

“Pretrial detention serves a legitimate purpose, preventing the serious risk of committing crimes while on pretrial release,” Evans mentioned in January. “Its purpose is not, however, to punish preemptively, by depriving people of their liberty for crimes for which they have not yet been convicted.”

Evans launched an announcement Tuesday calling Lightfoot’s remark “wrong on both the law and the facts.”

“As I have previously stated, I respectfully disagree that the automatic detention in jail of defendants facing certain categories of charges is a constitutional practice under the United States and Illinois constitutions,” Evans mentioned. “Pretrial detention serves a legitimate purpose, preventing the serious risk of committing crimes while on pretrial release. Its purpose is not, however, to punish by depriving people of their liberty for crimes for which they have not yet been convicted.”

Contrary to the notion that every one these charged with violent crimes are responsible, of violent felony circumstances disposed between October 2017 and April 2022, 11% have been dropped upon additional investigation by the State’s Attorney, and a further 3.2% have been discovered not responsible at trial. This reveals that charging a person doesn’t equate with guilt.

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A choose has three primary choices when figuring out the place a defendant ought to await trial. They can maintain the defendant in custody with out bond, launch them on their very own recognizance; or get them organized launched in the event that they pay a certain quantity of bail. In addition, the choose can order the defendant to put on an digital ankle bracelet as a situation of their launch on bond. Judges weigh an advanced set of things in a brief period of time to find out whether or not the defendant is a flight threat or poses a risk to public security.

Cook County has two digital monitoring programs: one operated by the chief choose’s office, and the opposite run by the sheriff. The knowledge underlying Lightfoot’s claims seem to focus solely on the sheriff’s home-monitoring program. Defendants on that program are supposed to be successfully beneath home arrest, sheriff’s officers have mentioned, carrying the digital ankle bracelet to make sure compliance.

In 2020 and 2021, the town skilled main spikes in violent crime and the mayor has responded by criticizing the chief choose and typically State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for being too lenient with crime. Lightfoot has additionally blamed the rise in violent crime on the pandemic.

But the general public defender’s office asserted in its Monday assertion that “in the long run, putting increasing numbers of people in jail while awaiting trial causes more harm to our communities. … Judges upholding the rule of law are not the reason there is gun violence. Truly supporting people with sufficient resources in their communities is the only way to achieve safety.”

Illinois is ready to get rid of money bail on Jan. 1 as a part of a sweeping legal justice reform invoice authorised by the General Assembly final year.

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