Three recent high-profile court cases superbly illustrate the importance of an informed electorate and the necessity for qualified, non-partisan oversight as two recent verdicts and a pending case have shaken the public trust in the Cook County judicial system:
- In April, Circuit Judge Dennis J. Porter found Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. While off-duty in 2012 near Douglas Park, Servin killed Rekia Boyd, 22, when he fired five shots over his shoulder while sitting in his car. Boyd and her three friends had their backs turned to Servin. Porter ruled Servin had not acted recklessly and so couldn’t be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
- Last week, Circuit Judge Diane Cannon found Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct for shoving his gun down a suspect’s throat. Cannon ruled the suspect’s DNA on the gun — evidence similar in weight to that used to convict many defendants — was “of fleeting relevance or significance.”
- In a pending matter, Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford is refusing to take himself off the Jackie Wilson case, even though Ford could be called as a witness and has links to several key actors in the police torture scandal involving former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Wilson alleges he is one of the victims in that scandal, an allegation for which the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission found credible evidence.
As attorneys for Rickey Williams, the gentlemen on the receiving end of Cmdr. Glenn Evans wrath, we were witness to the significance of the presiding judge and her predisposition that the Chicago Police Department and its officers are above the law. In the criminal trial, Judge Cannon went out of her way and put the victim, Mr. Williams, on trial in this case and to ignore overwhelming DNA evidence as “touch” evidence.
As we near the end of 2015, the Chicago Police Department is under the watchful eye of the federal government, citizens are protesting on the streets of Chicago and the electorate is calling for the ouster of the City’s mayor. The above three cases and verdicts, as well as the current unrest in Chicago, underscore the need and importance for citizens to educate themselves on all of the candidates – judges included – running for an elected office.