Articles Posted in Murder

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

43724062_51f3a21a88Street gang violence in the inner cities has become a way of life. News reports about shootings and killing on any given weekend is now Monday morning’s “yawn” story. But how can that be? Young men and women being shot down in the streets become just another statistic. A life lost, snuffed out by an “unidentified” assailant, is how the story goes. The assailant cannot be identified even though the probability of the residents of these closed neighborhoods not knowing who does what in the community is slim to none. Law enforcement’s hands are tied because of the desensitization and unwillingness of neighbors in the communities to get involved.

Sometimes You are Just in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

An adjunct to the tragic story of Lee McCullum is the equally tragic story of Tiara Parks, the 23 year old girlfriend of McCullum. Parks was also the daughter of a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy, a college student and a working mother. It is not known at this time what the possible motive for this murder was. Two other individuals were wounded in this drive-by shooting, one in the leg and one in the back. During the time of the shootings, there were approximately twenty people in the area, standing around as Parks and her companions were shot down as they exited their car in front of the Haley Elementary Academy. It is also unknown at this time if Parks or either of her companions, or all three of them, were the targets of this shooting.

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It has been said that street gangs exist to fill a void in the lives of their members. A gang member may feel a lack of love and support from his or her people at home. Statistically speaking, about 72% of African American children are being raised in single parent households. The emotional needs of many of these children cannot be met in the environment in which they are being raised. Therefore, many of these young men and women will seek to fill this void by joining a gang, without the wisdom and understanding to know (before it is too late) that there is no love in these affiliations because street gangs thrive off hatred, lawlessness, and despair.

In some cases, however, the street gangs seeking to draft new members do not allow a choice in the matter. For young men and women, especially young men, it becomes a matter of joining the gang in their neighborhood or suffer the consequences. Turf wars, drug dealing, and vigilantly justice are the driving forces behind these gangs. To be a member, you must be ready to participate in murders, robberies, and other crimes dictated by the gang leader.

The Tragedy of Lee McCullen

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A series of events led to the death of a Chicago man, Marques Gaines, that is now being called a homicide by the coroner’s office. Gaines and an unidentified man started arguing outside a 7-Eleven Store. The argument escalated, ending up with the unidentified man assaulting Gaines in front of the store and leaving him unconscious in the street.

Several bystanders rifled through Gaines’ pockets and robbed him while he lay unconscious. Other bystanders walked casually over and around the unconscious man but no one attempted to help him. Eventually, a taxi cab driver ran over Gaines. Gaines was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

The question is who is responsible for Gaines’ “murder.” Was it the unidentified man who punched Gaines and left him unconscious in the street? Was it the bystanders who robbed him while he lay unconscious in the street and failed to assist him; or was it the cab driver, who may not have known that Gaines was lying unconscious in the street, but who ended up running over him? Who is ultimately responsible for Gaines’ death, and who will be charged with his murder?

gavelUnusual crime stories make the news on a regular basis, grabbing the imagination of the viewers and keeping them enthralled and glued to their television sets, not to mention increasing the network ratings. These crimes make huge splashes in the news and tantalize the audience with wild scenes of decadence and drama, like the latest soap opera or reality show. Most crimes of this caliber usually involve, money, murder, sex.

Chicago Woman Kills Mother While on Exotic Vacation

The Bali suitcase murder case involved a million dollar trust, an exotic vacation, angst between a mother and daughter, and conspiracy between lovers to commit murder. Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer were convicted and sentenced to 10 and 18 years, respectively, for the murder of Mack’s mother. They will be serving their time in a Bahi prison. Mack, Schaefer, and Mack’s mother were on vacation when the murder occurred. Soon after being incarcerated, Mack gave birth to her daughter. According to Indonesian law, the baby will be raised by Mack in her prison cell until the child reaches the age of two years old.

file3771249330561High profile cases usually get a lot of attention in the media. Sometimes, media attention can advance the cause of justice, and sometimes it can inhibit it. When a case is tried in the court of public opinion, facts are sometimes ignored and emotions become the measuring rod for “guilt or innocence.”

There have been a few high profile cases that have garnered such media attention, both past and present. But in this century there is one particular case that has received the most attention.

One infamous high profile case comes to mind, The State vs. O.J. Simpson. Twenty-five years ago, Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered at Nicole Simpson’s home in Brentwood, California. Attention focused on one particular suspect, Nicole’s famous ex-husband, O.J. Simpson. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders, and the case gained immediate media attention due to Simpson’s celebrity status.

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In all jurisdictions, first degree murder is the most serious of homicide crimes that one can commit. The prosecutor in a “first degree” murder case must show, beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) one individual killed another individual, “without justification”; (2) that the individual intended to kill or do great bodily harm to the victim; (3) that he or she knew that the actions would or could produce such bodily harm that may result in death; (4) that the individual killed the victim while in the process of committing a felony (except the lesser included second degree murder charge).

In Illinois, the penalties for first degree murder often depends on who the victim was and any circumstances surrounding the murder. But under no circumstances will the penalty result in the death penalty. The death penalty for all intents and purposes has been abolished in Illinois. Illinois courts will often request a separate sentencing hearing after the defendant has been found guilty, in order to consider any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

The Death Penalty for First Degree Murder Has Been Abolished in Illinois