Police are treated differently in criminal court

Posted: April 23, 2010 by parchangelo in Local Issues, Police Misconduct, Prosecutorial Misconduct, Terrible Wrongs - Other Cases

Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell pleaded guilty April 17, 2010, to two counts of reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving for the November 23, 2007, accident which killed two teenage sisters: Jessica, 18, and Kelli, 13, and which injured others. In return for pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 30 months probation.

You can read the full story at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, here.

What is interesting about this case is the extent of misbehavior on the part of Mitchell which resulted in the crash and what some people believe was the attempt by the authorities to cover up the damage: Mitchell was doing everything wrong, driving 126 mph, and receiving and sending email seconds before the crash and talking on his cell phone just before that. He was responding at the time to an incident and was advised before the accident that the incident had been resolved. For some reason his car video camera was not operating and the only reason his speed was discovered was information from the “black box” from his car. The accident report itself was never released to the public.

If you don’t believe that police are prosecuted in a much more lenient manner than ordinary citizens recall also that Mitchell had two previous on-duty crashes and a $1.7 million settlement against him on another case. Note that according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch article:  “Mitchell became the first Illinois police officer convicted of reckless homicide for a wreck that happened on duty, said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida.”

The Post Dispatch notes another similar and significant case: “Another Illinois officer, Joseph Boomer, a sheriff’s deputy in Winnebago County, was acquitted in 2008 of two counts of reckless homicide filed after he allegedly caused the deaths of two people in a 2006 collision as he answered a call while going 100 mph in a 55 mph zone without lights or siren.”

The Post goes on to say:  “The case has spurred changes within the State Police. New policies limit the speed at which officers can respond to an emergency, require hands-free cell phones and mandate that a squad car’s video recorder be on whenever emergency lights are in use.”

We all, in Winnebago County, remember the controversial Boomer case. Many citizens still wonder what justifiable reason there was not to find Boomer guilty, at a minimum, of reckless homicide. Perhaps, if the jury had been aware at the time that no other officer in the state of IL had been held accountable for the resultant deaths, the Boomer verdict might have been different.
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