The crime television niche has done much to highlight the intricacies of the solicitation of murder for hire. Like in all legal jurisdictions in the world, this is a serious crime in Chicago. It involves a certain amount of breach of trust by a loved one. For the media, it is a chance to revel in the wickedness of humanity, particularly if the story involves a faithless spouse who decides to put a lifelong companion to sleep. The rudiments of the crime are to be found in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/8-1.2.
Needless to say, this is a serious crime that leads to the death penalty in some states. It is also an infectious crime in as far as more than one person may face charges. The one that commissioned the crime and the one that executed it are both charged together with any accomplices. That is not even accounting for the ensuing public scandal that is backed by sensational media reporting. For the ambitious defense lawyer, these crimes are a boon in as far as they are a fast track to fame.
The Implications of the Charge and Conviction
Chicago has struggled to get rid of its reputation as the murder capital of the world. Some would argue that Johannesburg in South Africa and some cities in Middle East would give Chicago a run for its money. However the reality is that there are far too many homicides in the state. It is almost always a narrative of poor choices, deprived backgrounds, and a criminal justice system that is hard-pressed to cope with the epidemic. Malik Causey is a case in point. Starting with petty theft and teenage rebellion; he ended up in a gang and was soon shot by a rival. His mother Monique Causey describes how she desperately wanted the police to arrest her son in order to keep him off the streets, and by extension the gangs that he had admired so much in his teenage years and then proceeded to join with disastrous consequences.
Although touching in its own right, this case is just one of the 91 homicides that were committed during August of 2016 within Chicago. This has been described as the deadliest month within the city for nearly 20 years. The current annual increase in homicides stands at 46% by some estimates. Chicago is way past the magic number of 500 homicides per year. For context, it is worth noting that the total killings in the city outweigh the combined total of New York and Los Angeles (no safe havens themselves if the crime statistics from there are to be believed). The more dramatic analysts have described this as a kind of massacre on American streets.
Finding the Root Causes of the Violence
The Illinois felony murder rule is a heavily debated topic. In fact, the Illinois law is one of the broadest in the country. The suspect of an armed robbery committed in Carpentersville, IL is being charged with murder because his accomplice died during the execution of the crime. U.S. Marshals apprehended the suspect, Bobby Heard, 32, in St. Louis, Missouri, according to the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.
At around 7:30 PM Heard and his partner, Kenyon R. Slater, 37, armed with handguns, broke into a computer store on the 1600 block of Ravish Lane according to Carpentersville police and prosecutors. After restraining two employees and pistol whipping one, the thieves grabbed cash and electronic equipment before fleeing the store. While Slater and Heard were fleeing the scene one of the store employees broke free, picked up a handgun, ran toward the thieves, and shot Slater in the store parking lot, according to prosecutors.
According to the Kane County coroner’s office, Slater, a Chicago resident, was driven to Sherman Hospital in Elgin, IL where he later passed away. Heard fled the scene in a vehicle that was driven by an unknown third suspect. A warrant was later issued for his arrest, charging him with a felony count of armed robbery and felony murder for the death Slater.
Did you know that drug dealers can be held criminally responsible if their clients die from an overdose after purchasing their drugs? In Illinois, a drug dealer in this situation can be charged with reckless homicide. This is exactly what recently happened to an alleged drug dealer in Chicago known as “Big D.”
The Journal Times reports that the Burlington police discovered an unresponsive 28-year-old man passed out in his car at a gas station back in May. Officers tried to revive the man but unfortunately he passed away and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner indicated that the man’s cause of death was a fentanyl overdose, according to the Times. Fentanyl is an opioid-based painkiller that can be legally prescribed by a physician, but which is also sold illegally on the street.
As part of the investigation, police officers interviewed a witness who told the police that a person known as “Big D” had supplied heroin and other illegal drugs to the deceased victim shortly before his death. The dealer was identified and law enforcement officials arranged a sting operation under which the cooperating witness arranged to purchase drugs from Big D. Afterwards the dealer was arrested, charged with first-degree reckless homicide, delivery of narcotics, and conspiracy to manufacture or deliver heroin, and is being held on $100,000 bail.
Last month, African American teenager Paul O’Neal was killed when a Chicago police officer shot him in the back during a controversial arrest. This shooting has outraged the African American community in Chicago and has worsened the already strained relationship between the police and the community. In fact, Fox News reports that three Chicago gangs are plotting to shoot police officers in retaliation. Apparently the Chicago Police Department (CPD) alerted its officers last week that three local gangs, the Vice Lords, the Black Disciples, and the Four Corner Hustlers, met in order to exchange guns and discuss plans to shoot CDP officers.
Penalties for Killing, Harming, or Intimidating a Police Officer
Under federal law 18 U.S.C. § 1121, it is a capital offense to intentionally kill a state or local law enforcement officer or employee, who is working with federal law enforcement officials during a criminal investigation,:
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) has a list of Chicagoans who are believed to be at risk of either killing or being killed. The police started compiling their Strategic Subject List three years ago in an attempt to save the lives of everyone listed, reports the Chicago Tribune. One by one, individuals on the strategic subject list are visited during a proactive well-being check. These checks, known as “custom notifications,” do not involve arrests but instead conversations and warnings. Officers warn listed individuals that they have been identified as being at risk for killing or being killed and that there are alternatives for safer lifestyles available to them. Depending on the circumstances, officers sometimes bring community activists or religious leaders with them during these well-being checks.
What Factors are Used to Generate Chicago’s Strategic Subject List?
The police have not precisely explained the factors that are being used to identify at-risk individuals for their Strategic Subject List. However, the department did tell the Chicago Tribune that they are focusing on the 1,400 individuals who are considered to be most at risk and that a person’s criminal record, age at first arrest, and whether the person has been previously shot are all taken into account. Some civil rights organization leaders in Chicago are concerned that the CPD is not telling the public which factors are being used to create the Strategic Subject List and worry that this lack of transparency may be masking racial profiling. The Police Department says that they will not release the precise combination of factors that are being used as doing so would undermine the program’s effectiveness.
Last month an African-American teenager was fatally shot by the Chicago police at the conclusion of a car chase. An article on WMUR.com reports that the police attempted to pull over the 18-year-old as the Jaguar convertible that he was driving had been reported stolen. The teen refused to pull over, led the police on a chase through the South Side of Chicago, hit a police cruiser and a parked car, and eventually two police officers opened fire on him. The teenager died from his injuries and his family has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging wrongful death and excessive force.
The news is highlighting this shooting as the latest event in a string of violent confrontations between African-American communities and police officers in Chicago. Unfortunately, there have been several police incidents lately during which members of the community claim police officers used excessive force. Chicago’s Police Department is attempting to foster trust between officers and community members by arming their police officers with body cameras. The idea is that the cameras will record police interactions with civilians in order to provide evidence in case any misconduct occurs. However, police body cameras can only serve their intended purpose if they are turned on and functioning properly, which is not always the case. During the police shooting described above, the body camera of the officer who fatally shot the teen failed to record during the shooting. The police department reports that they are currently in a body camera pilot program and that officers received their cameras approximately eight to 10 days before the shooting. At this time it is not clear why the officer’s body camera was not recording at the time of the shooting.
Body Camera Laws in Illinois
There is no doubt about it, this year Chicago is experiencing a serious spike in shootings and murders. In fact, ABC7 reports that there were 65 fatal shootings in July alone. What is to blame for this spike in violence? While there are undoubtedly many contributing factors, the head of the Chicago Police Union claims that police paperwork is in large part to blame. In an interview with DNAinfo the union leader explained that the problem does not exclusively stem from paperwork issues, but that the implementation of two-page Investigative Stop Reports has led to fewer police stops and, therefore, more violent crimes being perpetrated on the streets.
Chicago’s New Two-Page Investigative Stop Reports
Starting on January 1, 2016, Chicago’s old checklist contact cards were replaced with two-page Investigative Stop Reports. Under the old contact card system, every time a police officer interacted with a civilian on the street the officer would document the encounter via a simple checklist on an index-sized contact card. However, police officers are now required to document each encounter by filling out a two-page questionnaire. This new requirement means that police officers in Chicago are spending much more time filling out paperwork and much less time interacting with people on the street. An article from DNAinfo notes that during the first 11 days under the new policy there was a 79% decrease in police stops. The article states that there were just 3,916 investigative reports filed during these 11 days, compared to the 16,698 reports that were filed during the same period last year under the old system. This difference is clearly astronomical.
That old saying that “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” is what may be happening in the communities where mistrust of the police is so prevalent. When you have a single police officer, or several officers committing misdeeds, including murder, against members of the communities they are sworn to “serve and protect,” and those deeds go unchecked by fellow officers or the precinct watch commanders who are responsible for controlling and reigning in the bad conduct of their officers in the field, the communities will equate those misdeeds to the entire force. This is human nature, and to be expected. It is up to the police precincts to foster and maintain a more cooperative relationship with their communities. In order to do this, they must bring those officers responsible for criminal activities within those neighborhoods, to justice. It is inexcusable to make any attempt to justify criminal activity committed by law enforcement, and to expect the communities to support those same law enforcement officers. A “code of silence” has no place in law enforcement.
Chicago Police Department and its Code of Silence
A “code of silence” amongst law enforcement officers will go a long way in perpetuating acts of misconduct and the cover-up of police officer misdeeds and actual police criminal conduct within certain precincts. This unwritten code prevents a police officer from “snitching” on another police officer if he is aware that, that officer has engaged in some form of misconduct. Fear of retaliation and intimidation for providing evidence of police misconduct has no place in law enforcement. If such conduct is allowed within the ranks of our police officers, you will see a total breakdown between law enforcement and the communities.