Posts Tagged ‘prosecutorial misconduct’

If he is any bit a humanitarian, State’s Attorney, Joe Bruscato should not waste a moment in reviewing and dismissing the prosecution of John Horton, and ending the 23 years of suffering which this man has endured.

Geez, it’s like nothing will convince some of these guys that they are wrong and shouldn’t be prosecuting the innocent! Michael Mermel not only needs to go; but why should the law protect him rather than all the persons he may have zealously prosecuted to the max despite their not being guilty? Lake County should review all of the cases he has handled to see if evidence was properly handled and presented, and past defendants convicted by him should determine if they have grounds for appeal based on his stated views on DNA, which (per this article) seem to have been well-known for a long time.

Illinois Prosecutor Who Challenged DNA Evidence Will Resign

Prosecutors are under pressure to obtain convictions at any cost; it does not seem to matter much to them whether or not a suspect is guilty. Once prosecutors charge an individual, police seldom continue to look for other suspects and the prosecutors push ahead to try to convict in court. Often evidence arises during or after trial indicating that the individual may be innocent. Although prosecutors are mandated by law to disclose all evidence to the defense which would exonerate the suspect; they seem to regard their responsibility as a technicality and seldom do. Consequently there are many wrongly convicted individuals serving prison terms for crimes they did not commit, and their ranks are swelling rapidly in some states as the emphasis on convictions continue.

The article below points out that the number of apparent wrongful convictions is now being recognized in progressive states which are recognizing the need to begin to remedy the problem.  These states are taking steps to ensure that two things are available to defendants:  physical evidence in criminal cases and greater access to biological evidence and DNA testing to give them the chance to prove their innocence, and states are establishing “innocence” commissions to investigate allegations of wrongful conviction and help free those who are unjustly imprisoned.

Illinois knows the extent of it’s problems with wrongful convictions. As the article points out, IL has established a “commission” to study state wrongful convictions and make recommendations lawmakers, police, and courts. This is not enough.

Illinois is one of the leading states for wrongful convictions and presently, there are only a couple of privately operated “innocence projects” in Illinois from which inmates can attempt to obtain help in investigating their cases and proving their innocence once convicted. These innocence projects are woefully underfunded and understaffed, with few resources to investigate the mountains of applications from inmates they receive yearly, in comparison to the resources available to States Attorneys to help them convict anyone.

Like North Carolina, Illinois desperately needs to establish a state-operated investigative innocence commission; lawmakers need to make legal post-conviction DNA testing a right, and prosecutors need to stop opposing reasonable efforts of individual prisoners to prove their innocence.

States look to right wrong convictions

More and more individuals are being empowered to use modern technology to defend themselves and to document events. Most individuals use their phone cameras and other devices automatically whenever they feel a need to record events which are transpiring and don’t even think twice about doing so because the technology is so immediate and easy to use. Plus, most of us feel that we have a right to protect ourselves, and we know that stuff you can get on YouTube or post on the internet is what will be listened to.

But, if you do this in Illinois, you face the risk of prosecution, even when you are recording wrongdoing by other individuals; not only law enforcement, but also just about any public official. As the article below shows, the law in IL is virtually the worst in the country. These laws need to be changed or challenged in court because they are being used improperly to sanction actions against ordinary citizens, and we have less freedom than individuals in other countries.

Chicago State’s Attorney Lets Bad Cops Slide, Prosecutes Citizens Who Record Them

“…In a study published the same year, University of Chicago Law Professor Craig B. Futterman found 10,000 complaints filed against Chicago police officers between 2002 and 2004, more than any city in the country. When adjusted for population, that’s still about 40 percent above the national average. Even more troubling, of those 10,000 complaints, just 19 resulted in any significant disciplinary action. In 85 percent of complaints, the police department cleared the accused officer without even bothering to interview him.

Yet Alvarez feels it necessary to devote time and resources to prosecuting Chicagoans who, given the figures and anecdotes above, feel compelled to hit the record button when confronted by a city cop…”

“…When a citizen and a police officer have a confrontation, the police officer’s narrative has always been given deference by prosecutors, judges and juries — in the same way governments in more oppressive parts of the world have the power to project their own version of events as truth.

Citizens in America and across the globe now have the ability to preserve and present a more objective narrative. This is a positive thing — for democracy, for good government and for a fairer criminal justice system. U.S. courts and legislatures need to make it abundantly, unambiguously clear that not only do citizens have the right to record on-duty police officers, but that cops and prosecutors who violate that right will be held accountable.”

Jeff Terronez Photo credit: Quad City Times

The public always hears about the threats that defendants make against law enforcement, judges, and attorneys. It seems like you can’t pick up a mystery or suspense book or see a film these days in which some attorney or judge isn’t being stalked or threatened by someone they are prosecuting. It almost seems like authors and movie-makers don’t feel that the public will be interested in a film or a book without the personal connection between the law and the lawbreaker.

What we should be asking ourselves is: How many times is it the other way around? How many times are the police officers, the prosecutors or the judges involved in deliberately doing something wrong that they do not have to do and which affects the rights or outcome for a defendant? Movie-makers and authors stretch the plots and credibility in order to engage the reader or movie-seer. The really weird facts are the ones which often arise in reality, such as in this situation with Rock Island County State’s Attorney, Jeff Terronez. It would have been so simple for Terronez to remove himself from prosecuting Jason VanHoutte, in the article below. Instead, Terronez had to go ahead and prosecute the case himself; willing to accept a guilty plea while all the time keeping silent about his own involvement with the alleged victim. Read between the lines and you can hear Lisa Madigan’s own disbelief about this situation:

…Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Tuesday she is not concerned about the possibility cases prosecuted by Terronez could be thrown out in the wake of his guilty plea. She categorized his relationship with the victim as “extremely inappropriate” and “illegal, unethical and unprofessional.”

Asked whether investigators sought evidence of a sexual relationship, Madigan replied, “Absolutely. We had as many questions and were just as skeptical as you are…”

Convicted teacher’s attorney: ‘Prosecution was not impartial’

Attorney General Madigan: Terronez guilty, resigns

Note however, that Terronez had to resign, pays a $2,500 fine and loses his pension; but he still got only 2 years probation after a guilty plea! Despite making a mockery of the judicial system process and with action concerning a minor, this is still just a slap on the wrist for one of the worst incidents of prosecutorial misconduct.

Cook County prosecutors are on the cutting-edge, wielding their almighty powers of the state to prosecute their critics in the legal community who have repeatedly embarrassed them by helping to free those who are wrongly accused. Instead of taking lessons to heart and improving the legal performance of the prosecutors in their department; Cook County prosecutors have chosen to go after individual attorneys and organizations who have been effective in helping defendants.

Prosecutors know that they can ruin reputations and that they can often depend upon their prey being socially isolated once they become the target of any prosecution. Witness what is happening with the Medill Innocence Project and Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess. By suspending Protess, John Lavine, dean of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism appears to be single-handedly discrediting investigative journalism and adding to the destruction of the lives of those IL prison inmates who are wrongly convicted.

Journalism Under Siege at Northwestern

…”For the last three years, Protess has been locked in a prolonged battle with Chicago prosecutors after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez unveiled an unprecedented subpoena demanding all the records of Protess and his students concerning the case of Anthony McKinney, who Protess alleges has been behind bars for nearly thirty-five years for a murder he did not commit. For the full backstory, read The Nation’s editorial from last year, “Stalling Justice.” After initially defending Protess, Northwestern abruptly turned against him last fall, siding with prosecutors on the subpoena and culminating in Lavine’s sudden suspension of him last week…”

Protess and the Medill Innocence Project are not the only targets of Cook County prosecutors:

Felony charges for lawyer in cellphone case sparks legal debate

Attorney, Sladjana Vuckovicno, can no longer work the First Defense hotline since the CTA, which gave her special permission to do so before, has taken away the privilege since Cook County prosecutors her with a felony for bringing her cellphone into a police interview room.

“…The charges have sparked a controversy in the legal community. Several criminal-defense lawyers cannot remember a similar prosecution before in Illinois and said they routinely bring their cellphones into police interview rooms and sometimes let clients make calls, particularly to relatives if they express skepticism that the lawyer is truly there to defend them.

There are no signs in police stations warning against bringing a cellphone into an interview room, the lawyers said, and detectives rarely ask them to leave their belongings outside.

“If the state is attempting to interpret the statute so broadly that it includes the interview rooms at the police stations, then hundreds of lawyers in Illinois are committing Class 1 felonies on a daily basis,” said Richard Dvorak, a civil-rights lawyer who also is a member of the First Defense advisory board.”