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Articles Posted in Civil Rights

A white Chicago officer has been officially charged after an altercation with a Black woman who was walking her dog. The defendant has since resigned from the police force and has been charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct. The 52-year-old officer resigned prior to an official disciplinary hearing. 

The altercation ensued when the officer found a woman walking her dog along the beach. The officer detained the woman and told her the beach was closed. The woman said she felt threatened and asked the officer to step back. At that point, the officer grabbed the woman. The incident was not only caught on bodycam but a bystander recorded much of the altercation. 

The victim told the press that she believed the incident was racially motivated. She also said that she did not believe that all cops were bad people, but this particular cop was a bad apple. As a criminal defense attorney, you wish that people remembered the entirety of the cliche. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch. 

Pursuit issues have long been a public safety problem, but the majority of these issues are related to vehicles. Police are afraid that pursuing vehicles can result in pedestrian deaths, personal injury lawsuits, auto injuries, and property damage. They are likewise afraid of making a bad situation worse. It is more complicated by the fact that fleeing a police officer is itself a criminal act and in some states, the stakes are very high. While you will not see prosecutions like this in Illinois, certain Southern states can charge you with murder if a police officer murders your friend who is also fleeing police. In other words, there is a lot of controversy over pursuit of suspects, how to do it safely, and how to avoid lawsuits.

What we have not seen is a foot pursuit policy. This is largely because if a police officer accidentally steamrolls a bystander, they are not critically injured in the process. Nonetheless, foot pursuits do result in avoidable shootings and one of the most recent examples of this involved a 13-year-old boy. 

It is believed that the new foot pursuit policy will help prevent shootings related to minor offenses. Police will now have an identifiable policy on when they are allowed to place themselves, bystanders, or the suspect in danger. This should help reduce the overall number of police interactions.

A recent Supreme Court decision will make it more difficult for those convicted of crimes to appeal the outcome of a trial on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The measure was decided in favor of the states in a 6-3 decision. However, the dissenting justices did not mince words when describing the decision. Judge Sotomayor called the decision “perverse.” Judge Clarence Thomas who wrote the prevailing opinion said the federal government should have minimal right to “relitigate” cases years after juries rendered a decision.

Understanding the Legal Issues

The Sixth Amendment guarantees every citizen who is charged with a crime an attorney to represent them. It is assumed that this attorney is competent, can follow the case, and is providing their client with the best possible representation under the circumstances. If they fail to do this, then the defendant can appeal a conviction on the basis that their lawyer did not represent them to the best of their ability. In these cases, the court must render a decision on whether or not a similar attorney in the same position would have taken a better approach and whether or not that approach would have made a significant difference over the outcome.

A Chicago man who was convicted as a teen for murder will now be freed from prison after his conviction was overturned after 37 years behind bars. The National Registry of Exonerations reported that this was the 3,000th conviction lifted since 1989 when the registry began tracking overturned convictions. The suspect was released from prison after 30 years behind bars, but not because his conviction was overturned — because he was paroled. He will now have the conviction expunged from his record, for all the good it will do him, and he will seek a certificate of innocence from the state. 

The defendant was framed by a group of rogue officers operating within Chicago P.D. during the late 80s. The police found the teen walking down the street, beat him, and charged him with murder. The group resorted to framing, planting evidence, and gaining confessions through torture and beatings. 

Exculpatory evidence had been suppressed at the original trial and the defense attorney representing the wrongfully-convicted defendant said he did not know about witness testimony that would have tied another man to the shooting. 

Two officers approach a suspect who opens fire on them. They return fire and strike the suspect. The suspect has now been shot. The police have him in cuffs and are searching him to determine where the gun is. The officer is patting him down. Another officer is standing near him. The officer who is doing the patdown hits his head on the other officer. Thinking it was the suspect who tried to strike him, he punches the man in the groin several times. 

Bodycam footage does not show the suspect threatening the officer at the time of the arrest. The officer was relieved of duty and then charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct. However, a grand jury declined to file charges against the officer and so, the case has been dismissed.

Understanding the Problem

According to a recent opinion piece by the Daily Mail, “woke” bail reform is putting murderers back on the streets of Chicago. This is not strictly true. In 2020, when the jails and prisons were overcrowded with suspects awaiting charges, it became more routine to release individuals on ankle monitors. However, it is true that reforms in the way we do bail are impacting how it functions and who qualifies.

To be sure, Illinois is not woke when it comes to bail reform. Some states have moved to do away with the cash bail system, and we will get into their reasons why below. However, Illinois is not one of them so the idea that Chicago is putting murderers out on the streets at a greater rate than say, New York or Los Angeles is false. One of the reasons why Chicago takes it on the chin when it comes to these sorts of accusations is that we have a large Black population, a history of political corruption, and a reputation for organized crime. However, we are no more woke than, say, Birmingham, AL when it comes to our bail system. 

COVID releases, overcrowding, and ankle monitors

If any one story can encapsulate the zeitgeist of the state of policing in America, it is this one. John Catanzara, the president of the Chicago police union, is facing at least two disciplinary charges. One is related to a social media post in which he referred to Muslims as “savages” and said, “They all deserve a bullet.” The other is related to criminal charges that he filed a false police report against another police officer, then-Superintendent Eddie Johnson. 

Disciplinary charges follow an IA investigation into Catanzara who allegedly claimed that Superintendent Eddie Johnson allowed protesters onto the Dan Ryan Expressway. This will be the third time that the President of the police union has faced firing. Two prior superintendents have tried and failed to get Catanzara tossed from the force. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended Catanzara’s firing after he made incendiary comments against Muslims. 

Is it Illegal to Make Incendiary Comments About Muslims?

A woman who was dragged by the hair out of her car during an arrest will not face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. The woman Mia Wright claims that officers dragged her out of her car by her hair near the Brickyard Mall and then knelt on her neck for a period of time. City officials refused to explain why they dropped the charges against the woman. 

An attorney for Mia Wright said that anyone who looked at the video would see that the police officers’ reaction was baseless and unnecessary. 

The Video

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board after several officers were allegedly unfairly suspended during investigations. Across the U.S., police departments have been taking complaints about officers more seriously since the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests that gripped the nation.

Sidelined officers include notable ones such as the officer who punched activist Miracle Boyd in the face after a confrontation in front of the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. Others include police officers accused of dragging a woman out of her car by her hair and then kneeling on her neck, and another officer caught on film giving someone the finger. 

The FOP insists that none of those officers should have either been fired or suspended until the investigations were complete. They have filed an unfair labor practices complaint over the handling of police misconduct investigations. 

Those who are in prison awaiting trial for crimes for which they have been accused are considered innocent until proven guilty. Yet the law has a vested interest in holding some detainees until trial—especially if they are considered either flight risks or a danger to the community. 

Despite that, one Chicago criminal defense attorney was able to get over a dozen Chicago inmates released amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

Prisons and Jails are Responsible for Inmate Safety

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