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In terms of senseless tragedies, this one makes as little sense as any. One man is facing charges after he allegedly poured lighter fluid on a sleeping homeless man and ignited it. The homeless man, who was featured in a documentary, was known to Chicagoans as “the walking man.” He is not expected to survive the attack. 

A 27-year-old man has been charged. If the victim dies, the defendant will face charges of first-degree murder. Surveillance cameras show the man scoping the area for traffic before dumping the lighter fluid from a cup onto the sleeping man. The homeless man began thrashing wildly when a security guard noticed him and put out the blaze. 911 was immediately called. 

Police used the surveillance footage to track down the suspect, who told them that he had found a cup full of gasoline and wanted to set some trash on fire. When asked why, he told police he was an angry person. The defendant maintains that he was not aware that a person was sleeping there. Medical personnel have described the burns as “non-survivable.”

One brother is providing testimony against the other for a 45-year sentence after the two were involved in a robbery/homicide outside of a convenience store. The younger brother testified that his older brother handed him the gun he used to shoot the man. The victim was targeted after he was seen counting money outside of the convenience store. The two men then split the $50 he had on him.

The brother who did not provide testimony on behalf of the state is facing a mandatory life sentence if convicted. The younger brother testified that he pulled the trigger, but his older brother handed him the gun. The younger brother took $30 for pulling the trigger. 

Discrediting the Witness

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.

Now for some good news. Chicago introduced an anti-violence program geared toward inmates who were convicted of violent crimes. While this does not sound like the kind of measure that would produce positive results, the data would indicate otherwise. According to the latest data, those who took part in the READI program were 67% less likely to be involved in a subsequent gun crime and 20% less likely to be the victim of gun violence. 

What does the data say? Well, even as gun violence and crime rates spike throughout the city of Chicago, those who participated in the READI program showed dwindling rates. Those who attended the program had an average of 17 raps on their sheet and many of them had been the victims of gun violence before. Overall, 2500 men were selected for READI Chicago. When compared against a similar group of 2500 men who did not partake in the program, the crime rates were massively lower. The intensive 18-month program was targeted to at-risk males in the Chicago area. The names were drawn algorithmically but focused on those who had violent histories.

Why is This Program Succeeding?

Chicago residents are no strangers to gunfire, but this particular mass shooting was a targeted attack on a predominantly Black neighborhood in one of Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods. The shooter traveled halfway across the state from a small rural upstate town to commit the murder. He researched which area was most likely to contain the most Black people and murdered eight Black people and two white people, all told.

In this case, a federal background check was conducted on the shooter prior to his purchase of an AR-15 in January of this year. Similar failures occurred in the Nikolas Cruz case, the killer who used an AR-15 to shoot up a Parkland high school. In the latter case, the federal government was sued for failing to intervene and for negligently issuing a permit to a deranged psychopath, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

Which Laws Failed?

The police have begun to move on a murder that occurred in 1998 after DNA evidence linked two men to the crime scene. The one man agreed to testify against the other and now, the defense team representing the other man has moved to gain access to the witness and co-conspirator’s medical history. The idea is to suggest that the defendant lacked the ability to remember that he committed a murder in 1998 or any of the details concerning that murder. In other words, they want to suggest that the individual is so unreliable, their testimony should not be admissible in court.

The court has agreed to give the defense access to the witness’s medical records. From this, they will be able to build a defense that the witness is either simply saying what the police want to hear in exchange for testimony against the other defendant and his ability to recall details from such a long time ago is compromised by psychiatric illness and intervention.

Is This Tactic Likely to be Successful?

A recent criminal suit filed against a babysitter has an old controversy back in the forefront. The babysitter is being charged with several felonies related to the death of an infant under her care. The defense had moved to exclude evidence produced by a Chicago physician who would testify that the baby died of trauma related to being shaken.

To make that determination, the doctor uses evidence provided from studies that tell forensic doctors to look for key hallmarks of shaken baby syndrome. The research has come under fire recently sparking a dispute between scientists. 

According to the California Innocence Project, shaken baby syndrome has never been conclusively proven. The notion remains a hypothesis yet is used to convict parents using forensic doctors all the time. These doctors will testify that brain trauma is almost certain the result of the baby being shaken. While the defense can contest this hypothesis, it does not always stop a conviction.

A man told police, among other things, that another man had given him a ride home from a club. The man who offered the ride was later found bludgeoned to death in a pool of his own blood. The suspect, who was covered in blood, initially told police that he fell down the stares, but later revealed that he had bludgeoned the man to death with a hammer after the man had allegedly tried to rape him. Police found the victim’s wallet in the suspect’s possession. The suspect did not have a good reason for possessing the wallet. He has since been charged with first-degree murder.

The man pleaded guilty to a battery charge while out on parole for an unrelated offense. He was sentenced in 2013 for attempted murder. He pleaded self-defense in that case, too.

Analyzing the Defense

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. 

A Chicago public schools security guard is facing charges that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. The guard was suspended pending an investigation and now more allegations have surfaced. The security guard is now facing two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor. The students, who are 15 and 16, say that the security guard touched them inappropriately. Both students were male. The second victim informed his mother of the incident, which is when authorities became involved. They traced their way back to a second victim.

What is Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse?

Aggravated criminal sexual abuse, as opposed to criminal sexual abuse, is sexual abuse plus any one of a number of aggravating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances include the use of a weapon during a sexual assault, the use of drugs to induce a sexual assault, a victim over 60 years of age, or a minor victim when the attacker is an adult. In most cases, aggravated sexual assault is considered a second-degree felony in Illinois. However, when an adult perpetrator and minor victim is involved, it escalates to a class-one felony. 

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