This is what the Illinois court system was up to in February of 2016. Here are the 9 best and worst cases. The last one is the one the prosecution doesn’t want you to know about.
- People v. Boston
Sloppy grand jury work by State’s Attorney does not prejudice defendant. Go to case.
- People v. Ligon
Many objects can qualify as dangerous weapons for purposes of aggravated vehicular hijacking, but not as to armed violence. In other other words, list of bludgeons is greater for AVH and smaller for armed violence. Go to case.
- People v. Zayed
Smell of cannabis does not give this officer a free pass to search this passenger because the officer crossed the line by whipping out the defendant’s penis and essentially conducting an unreasonable strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Jarvis
The visual examination of defendant’s buttocks might have exposed defendant’s anus. Nonetheless, any search for the “person” authorizes a strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Little
This DWLR conviction stands because the police officer didn’t need proof of every element of the crime he was investigating. The stop with limited information was good. Go to case.
- People v. Buschauer
The trial court’s finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence in that a reasonable person in would have felt free to leave at any point during the interrogation. Trial court just can’t ignore the factors that weigh against coercion. Go to case.
- People v. Harrison
This force blood draw was not suppressed because it was done before the McNeely decision and binding precedent was in place. Good faith exception applies. Go to case.
- People v. Moore
Lost photo arrays were not done in bad faith, so no due process violation occurred. The proper remedy for this discovery violation was to grant Civil Jury Instruction 5.01. Go to case.
- People v. Nibbe
Second degree murder conviction is vacated outright because a blow with a bare hand is not ordinarily contemplated to cause death. Go to case.
- People v. Pmulamasaka
This rape is overturned, in large part, because the State committed and the trial judge allowed gross prosecutorial misconduct. Among the list of error committed by the prosecution two stand out. He repeatedly argued the victim was mentally handicapped when there was no such evidence, and he sat in the witness box during closing argument. Go to case.
Ben Baker had long been a thorn in the side of corrupt Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who framed the part-time drug dealer on a narcotics charge in retaliation for refusing to pay a protection payoff of $1,000, court records show.
While Baker was on bond awaiting trial in December 2005, he and his wife, Clarissa Glenn, were stopped by Watts and one of his team members. Once again, the officers claimed they found a bag of heroin in Baker’s car and tagged the couple with major felony drug charges, according to the court records.
Faced with up to 15 years in prison and frightened that their young children would be left without parents, the couple copped deals with prosecutors in order to spare Glenn from prison. Baker, though, had an additional two years tacked on to his sentence for the other drug case — a total of 14 years behind bars.
Now Baker and Glenn are seeking to have those guilty pleas thrown out, claiming in a court filing last week that Watts had planted the heroin — this time as retribution for blowing the whistle on him. Watts had been tipped off that Baker had gone to the Chicago police internal affairs division about his earlier shakedown, records show.
To buttress their claim, the couple has produced court records that show the judge who took their guilty pleas in September 2006 was already aware that Watts’ crew was under investigation, according to the petition filed in Cook County Criminal Court.
In fact, Judge Michael Toomin told the couple that if the allegations were ever proved, they could come back to court and he would gladly throw out their cases.
The court filing marks the latest fallout over the corrupt squad led by Watts, who in 2012 was charged along with one of his underlings, Officer Kallatt Mohammed, with shaking down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI informant. Both were convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
Baker was freed in January after serving more than a decade of his 14-year sentence. Cook County prosecutors agreed to drop the original drug charge against him after his lawyer, Joshua Tepfer, revealed dozens of pages of court and law enforcement records showing that police internal affairs had been aware as far back as the late 1990s of corruption allegations involving Watts’ team — yet failed to take them off the street.
At the time of Baker’s arrest, Watts and his entire crew also were the target of an ongoing FBI investigation, according to records uncovered by Tepfer, of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. One FBI report from September 2004 showed that an informant had told federal agents that Watts and other officers were routinely shaking down drug dealers for thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for police protection at the Ida B. Wells public housing complex.
But it wasn’t until five years later that agents were able to build a criminal case against Watts and Mohammed, based in part on the undercover work of two whistleblower officers, Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria.
Tepfer told the Tribune on Friday that the latest filing shows how Watts and his crew were able to terrorize a community for years with their illegal schemes, using their police powers to keep the largely poor and vulnerable people who lived in Ida B. Wells in line.
“These cases were brought by vindictive and corrupt police officers who were framing individuals for things that they did not do,” Tepfer said. “(Baker and Glenn) are likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to victims of the decadelong criminal enterprise headed by Sgt. Watts.”
The experience was particularly rough on Glenn, a churchgoing mother of three who had never been arrested before and has not been since, according to her lawyer, Jonathan Brayman.
“Every step of the way, Clarissa has told anyone who would listen that she and Ben were innocent,” he said.
According to the petition, Baker and Glenn were stopped by Watts and Officer Alvin Jones on Dec. 11, 2005. Jones claimed in police reports that as he walked up to the car he saw Glenn hand a clear plastic bag filled with heroin to Baker, who put it in the driver’s-side console.
But Baker and Glenn claimed Watts had pulled the bag out of his sleeve and placed it in the car after a search had turned up no drugs. Back at the Wentworth District police station, Jones and several other members of Watts’ team typed up a false report, adding officers as witnesses who weren’t even at the scene, the couple alleged.
Before the couple pleaded guilty, Judge Toomin acknowledged in court that he had been shown reports that indicated Watts’ crew had been under investigation by internal affairs and that a prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office’s public integrity unit was involved. But there had been no concrete evidence of wrongdoing and no move by prosecutors to drop the charges, so the judge said he couldn’t do anything with the information, according to a transcript.
“Let me say this to both of you,” Toomin told Baker and Glenn, according to a transcript. “There has not been sufficient showing to me that these are renegade police officers, that they are bad police, that they are outlaws.”
But, Toomin said, “police officers do get charged with doing things that are wrong, breaking the law.”
“If that should happen here in this case, I would have no hesitation,” the judge said. “I would toss out these convictions.”
SALT LAKE CITY — During her 10 years as a Utah state trooper, Lisa Steed built a reputation as an officer with a knack for nabbing drunken motorists in a state with a long tradition of teetotaling and some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws.
Steed used the uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.
Today, however, Steed is out of work, fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, and she — and her former superiors — are facing a lawsuit in which some of those she arrested allege she filed bogus DUI reports.
“If we don’t stand up to Lisa Steed or law enforcement, they just pull people over for whatever reason they want,” said attorney Michael Studebaker.
Steed declined to comment, but her attorney Greg Skordas said she denies the allegations. She is trying to get her job back.
The people snared by Steed say the arrests disrupted their lives and were costly to resolve.
Michael Choate, a now-retired aircraft logistics specialist at Hill Air Force Base, said he nearly lost his security clearance and job.
Steed stopped him because he was wearing a Halloween costume and booked him even though three breathalyzers tests showed no alcohol in his system. Choate said he spent $3,800 and had to take four days off of work to get his DUI charged dismissed.
The 49-page lawsuit includes two defendants, but Studebaker said dozens of others are lined up and willing to tell their stories. He said they are requesting the lawsuit be broadened into a class action lawsuit.
Every one of her DUI stops back to at least 2006 should be under suspicion, he said, adding that could be as many as 1,500 people.
The lawsuit, filed in December, also accuses the Utah Highway Patrol of ignoring Steed’s patterns of higher-than-normal DUI bookings and waited too long to take her off patrol. The agency declined to comment.
Steed joined the agency in 2002, and during her first five years, she earned a reputation as a hard-worker whose efficiency led to high arrest totals. By the time she ascended to trooper of the year in 2007, she was held up as one of the agency’s top stars.
In 2009, Steed became a member of the DUI squad. Her 400 DUI arrests that year were thought to be a state record, and more than double the number made by any other highway trooper. She earned special recognition at the state Capitol.
“With her training and experience, it’s second nature for her to find these people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” her DUI squad boss at the time, Lt. Steve Winward, told the Deseret News.
During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed said it was simply a “numbers game,” noting that one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you’re going to run into them,” she said.
Steed’s career, however, turned. In 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn’t know she was violating agency policy.
By April 2012, her credibility had come into question so much that a prosecutor said he would no longer prosecute DUIs if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.
In October, the Salt Lake Tribune obtained a memo written in May 2010 in which Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rob Nixon flagged Steed’s “pattern” of questionable DUI arrests. He wrote that the bulk of Steed’s arrestees had no signs of “impairing drugs” in their systems.
The memo said she based most of her arrests on signs of impairment such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors.
Steed was taken off road patrol in April 2012 and fired in November. She was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.
The lawsuit is based on two defendants: Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia.
Romero was stopped after Steed said he was swerving, according to the lawsuit. After Romero said he wasn’t drinking, Steed gave him a roadside sobriety test anyway. She booked him for DUI even though his blood alcohol content was 0.00. Charges were dismissed.
Tapia went to pick up her ex-husband, who had been drinking. Steed approached Tapia as she got out of her car at her house, saying Tapia had been speeding, the lawsuit said. Steed said she could smell alcohol, and Tapia told her it was coming from her ex-husband.
Tapia was arrested for a DUI; her ex-husband for public intoxication. Tapia’s blood test showed no alcohol. Charges were dropped.
Choate, who hopes to join the lawsuit, said the entire agency should be held responsible for the damage Steed caused to him and others. “They let her get away with it for a long time,” he said.
If you could look beneath the blindfold worn by Lady Justice, would her eyes be closed? One of the nation’s most influential judges suggests she would be giving a wink to prosecutors seated across from the defendant.
In the latest issue of Georgetown Law Journal, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turns a critical gaze toward America’s criminal justice system. It’s a long piece — part diagnosis of ailments and part treatment — with a broad sweep. But one of its major themes is prosecutorial advantage, both in federal and state courtrooms.
“They say that any prosecutor worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. It may be that a decent prosecutor could get a petit jury to convict a eunuch of rape,” writes Judge Kozinski.
Among his specific concerns is what he sees is a reluctance on the part of judges to blow the whistle on prosecutorial abuse:
Defense lawyers who are found to have been ineffective regularly find their names plastered into judicial opinions, yet judges seem strangely reluctant to name names when it comes to misbehaving prosecutors. Indeed, judges seem reluctant to even suspect prosecutors of improper behavior, as if they were somehow beyond suspicion….Naming names and taking prosecutors to task for misbehavior can have magical qualities in assuring compliance with constitutional rights.
If judges have reason to believe that witnesses, especially police officers or government informants, testify falsely, they must refer the matter for prosecution. If they become aware of widespread misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases, a referral to the U.S. Department of Justice for a civil rights violation might well be appropriate.
But he says even if judges made the referrals, Judge Kozinski doubts the Justice Department has the appetite to pursue them.
“The U.S. Justice Department seems ready enough to pursue charges of civil rights violations in cases where police have engaged in physical violence, but far more reluctant to pursue misbehaving prosecutors,” he writes.
Law Blog has reached out to a Justice Department spokesman for comment.
Judge Kozinski, appointed by President Reagan in 1985 at the age of 35, touches on other issues: He calls for more “rigorous procedures for eyewitness identification.” He thinks jurors should be allowed to take notes during trial (a few judges, he says, still refuse to do so), and he favors abolishing state judicial elections, among other recommendations.
His concerns about prosecutorial practices resurface again when he talks about discovery rules.
He thinks Congress should pass a bill proposed by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in 2012 — called the Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act — that would require federal prosecutors to disclose any evidence “that may reasonably appear to be favorable to the defendant in a criminal prosecution.”
That’s a wider net than the constitutional obligation to share with criminal defendants exculpatory evidence material to guilt or punishment.
“The U.S. Justice Department, for example, takes the position that exculpatory evidence must be produced only if it is material,” he writes. “This puts prosecutors in the position of deciding whether tidbits that could be helpful to the defense are significant enough that a reviewing court will find it to be material.”
The Justice Department’s policy manual says it wants to avoid disclosures that deal with “spurious issues or arguments which serve to divert the trial process,” but it says it sets a higher standard in at least two respects: requiring disclosure of information “that is inconsistent with any element of any crime charged” or that collectively with bits of other evidence reaches the exculpatory threshold.
“If the Department of Justice wants to show its commitment to justice, it should drop its opposition to the [legislation] and help get it passed into law,” writes Judge Kozinski.
A spokesman for Ms. Murkowski said her office is considering re-introducing a version of the discovery standards bill this congressional session.