Articles Tagged with Chicago homicide attorney

Baby-shaking prosecutions involve parents or guardians who shake their babies to get them to stop crying, usually, in a fit of rage. In one case, an Australian man was convicted when two forensic experts testified that baby-shaking was the likely cause of the child’s homicide. The man was imprisoned for nine years.

The controversy surrounds a “triad” of injuries that appear to indicate a baby-shaking homicide. These include bleeding of the brain, retinal hemorrhage, and swelling of the brain. In many cases, there are no external injuries to the baby at all. The belief that “triad-only” symptomology is at a 1:1 correspondence to baby shaking is now at the center of a hot controversy between prosecutors and scientists. Some forensic experts say that the triad automatically indicates shaking or abuse, while others are not so sure. The latter’s argument is gaining traction due to a recent article contesting the science behind such prosecutions.

The article specifically called out the two expert witnesses who testified in the baby-shaking case mentioned above. The scientist concluded that there was no finding of fact that implicated the defendant in that lawsuit to baby shaking, and the theory behind such prosecutions was based on studies conducted in cases where individuals allegedly confessed to the crimes. By comparing confessions to abuse, the experts were able to (by analogy) claim that the defendant was guilty of baby-shaking.

A video captures a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The man dies. The officer involved, Derek Chauvin, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges prompting outrage that led to civil unrest all across the country. The medical examiner releases a report saying that George Floyd died of a number of factors including Chauvin’s knee and poor overall health.

The question of whether or not Chauvin “intended” to kill Floyd is now at the heart of this case. In this article, we will take a look at the charges, and discuss why folks are so angry over the judicial process.

Third-Degree Murder and Second-Degree Manslaughter

mingyue-sun-153025-300x169A man involved in a bizarre love triangle was charged with murder after a shooting in Evanston. Sandoval Cobian, 38 years old, is facing murder charges after allegedly shooting his romantic rival in the north suburb. The Chicago native was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, as reported by Evanston police.

On Friday, March 15, officers found Angel Miranda, 33 years old, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen and chest. He was located behind a residence in the 1800 block of Simpson Street and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Miranda, who was a resident of the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, was visiting his girlfriend. She found him shot and called authorities. Investigators later learned Cobian and Miranda were romantically involved with the same woman. Police reported that Cobian shot Miranda because of jealousy and a “romantic rivalry.” Cobian was ordered held without bail. His next court date is set for the end of March.

max-bender-702436-unsplash-copy-240x300On January 27, 2019, a man was charged with attempted murder after he shot a Chicago police officer. 32-year-old Swaleh Mohammed was arrested the night of January 26 and has been charged with six felonies. It is alleged that he shot a Chicago police officer in the officer’s protective vest when law enforcement was responding to a domestic dispute in the neighborhood of West Ridge.

Police were called to Swaleh’s home at approximately 6:45 p.m. and found him inside with a gun. He barricaded himself inside and, according to police, appeared to have some type of mental disability. He then shot at police who returned fire, but did not hit the suspect.

One of the responding officers was hit in his vest, but was unharmed. He was taken to the hospital and reported in good health.

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.

In the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, a Chicago police officer is set to stand trial in January on charges of involuntary manslaughter and other felonies in the 2012 off-duty shooting death of an unarmed black woman.


Police shootings happen fairly regularly across the country, and as part of their job to serve and protect officers often kill dangerous suspects. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicate that in 2013, there were 461 justifiable homicides by police officers. Some estimate this number to be much higher – at least 1,000 – because not all police departments report their numbers to the FBI for inclusion in the report. So when does murder by a Chicago police officer cross the line from justifiable homicide to murder?

Justifiable Homicide by Chicago Police

There is no special statute protecting Chicago police officers who kill a suspect in the line of duty. Like any other citizen, Chicago police officers must prove that their use of force was justified.

The use of justifiable force, as I have discussed before, is an affirmative defense. This means that the police officer has the burden of proving that his use of force was justified, and not the prosecutor. Under Illinois’ justifiable use of force law, a police officer may use force against another person if he reasonably believes that force is necessary to defend himself or another person against the victim’s unlawful use of force. However, the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm can only be used if the officer has a reasonable belief that he is protecting himself or another person from death or great bodily harm.

It is important to note that the victim’s use of force must be unlawful, in order for force to be justified. This means that a person cannot put you in fear of your life, and then use deadly force against you when you try to protect yourself using force.

How does this translate to real life? Take, for example, the Eric Garner case. Most people do not dispute that he was resisting arrest. But from the video, he appeared to be doing so peacefully, and posed no physical threat to law enforcement. So the argument could be made that the police officer’s use of a banned chokehold was unlawful use of force, since there was no reasonable justification to believe that he was in danger of death or great bodily harm.

The vast majority of killings by Chicago police officers are ruled justifiable homicides and never brought to trial. The last case of a Chicago police officer facing criminal charges for a shooting death was 17 years ago. Defense in these cases rests entirely on the police officer’s testimony. Eyewitness testimony factors in to some degree, as would any available video. But in the end, the police officer’s testimony regarding his behavior and the victim’s behavior in the moments leading up to the shooting, and the officer’s level of perceived harm, is what the jury will ultimately rely on. And as is shown by the fact that it has been 17 years since the last Chicago police officer was brought to trial, in the vast majority of cases the benefit of the doubt goes to the officer.

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A Chicago man was arrested last week in connection with the 2009 disappearance and murder of his girlfriend. The woman disappeared in April 2009 after last being seen with the defendant. Here whereabouts were unknown until recently, when a 911 call to the Dolton Police Department reported a body in Little Calumet River. An autopsy positively identified the victim and determined the cause of death to be strangulation.


Defense of Cold Case Murder

Cold case murders are challenging for the prosecution – the passage of time causes both evidence and witness memories to fade. But these challenges are positives to the defense, as it makes it easier to cast reasonable doubt on the defendant’s guilt. Defense in these types of cases would involve attacking the credibility of both witness statements and any forensic evidence found in the case.

In cases such as this, where the victim was last seen with the defendant, the prosecution will attempt to persuade the jury that this fact implicates the defendant in her disappearance. But with no other evidence linking the defendant to the victim, this eyewitness testimony has little value and does not prove that the defendant was responsible for her death. It only proves that they were seen together. The defendant and the victim may have parted ways after they were last seen together, with the victim later being attacked by an unknown third-party.

Cause of death would also need to be examined by forensic experts hired by the defense. The coroner listed cause of death as strangulation. If the death was recent, we would attempt to determine if any marks left on the victim’s neck were consistent with the size and shape of the defendant’s hands. The passage of time makes this type of evidence unlikely, but it is still something that the defense would need to examine.

If the body was deteriorated to the point that no skin was left to examine, forensic experts may be able to determine the amount of force that was needed for the victim to be strangled, and from there estimate the approximate height and weight of the murderer. This evidence may also help to exonerate the defendant.

Forensic examination may also show that there is a possibility that damage to the neck occurred following death. Perhaps the victim was not a victim of murder. Instead, she may have committed suicide by jumping into the river, and her body then became tangled in some type of debris that could have caused injuries consistent with strangulation. This evidence would also exonerate the victim.

DNA evidence in this case would not be indicative of the defendant’s guilt. The two were dating, so one would expect to find his DNA on her. But if DNA of any unknown party was found on the victim, those persons would need to be identified in order to determine whether they could have been responsible for her death.

The defense would also look into whether there was anybody with cause to harm the victim. Did she – or perhaps the defendant – have a bitter ex-partner? Could she have been involved in drugs or some other illicit activity that led to her death? Could the defendant or the victim’s family have been involved in these activities, and she was killed by to send them a message? The backgrounds of the victim, the defendant and her close family and friends would all need to be considered to determine whether there are any other possible suspects.  Continue reading

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