In a high-profile criminal trial, a Chicago judge issued a stunning bench verdict in favor of the defense. The case gained national attention after a video surfaced of a man hauling a suitcase out of a public housing complex elevator and struggling to drag it outside. The suitcase allegedly contained the body of a murdered woman. In the video, the man appeared to change his clothes in between exiting and entering the elevator with various cleaning supplies. The judge ruled that this did not constitute evidence of a crime, leaving the family of the victim distressed.
The problem for prosecutors was that there was no evidence of foul play. They could not determine if the victim had actually been murdered and there was no evidence of a crime inside of her apartment. The judge stated that the 65-year-old woman had been drinking that day, and she could have died of natural causes. The defendant had faced murder charges before in 1985, but that case was dismissed when a witness failed to show up.
The defendant could be seen dragging the suitcase out of the housing complex into a dumpster, lifting the suitcase into the dumpster, then removing trash from other dumpsters to conceal the suitcase. However, the woman’s body was never recovered.
Understanding the Verdict
While the defendant was acquitted of murder, the prosecution apparently never bothered to charge him with unlawful disposal of a body or related crimes because he is now out free. Instead, they prosecuted only the murder charge against him but did not present evidence that the woman was murdered. The circumstantial evidence might have been enough to convince a jury that the defendant believed he had done something bad and on that basis, convict the man of murder. However, bench trials can be tricky. Judges are less likely to consider emotional evidence or even consider evidence of a cover-up unless there is matching forensic evidence. The judge could have believed that the defendant was afraid to be found with a dead body and decided to do something crazy. It would not have been the first time he was charged with murder. The trauma of that event, supposing it was untrue, could lead a man to believe that avoiding the suspicion at all was preferable to letting forensics do their job. Nonetheless, his suspicion conduct following the murder ensured that he would be charged. So, even if the woman died of natural causes, the defendant will always bear the cross of her death.
Generally speaking, a criminal defense attorney would shy away from a bench trial. However, there are certain cases where avoiding a jury of your peers is beneficial. This certainly appears to be one of them.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a serious crime in the Chicago area, call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense, protecting your rights, and ensuring a fair resolution to your case.