Judge rejects request for moratorium on electronic monitoring of violent offenders – NBC Chicago
Cook County’s top judge said it would violate the law if judges honor Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent plea to jail “the most violent and dangerous offenders” instead of placing them on electronic surveillance devices while they wait. their trial.
Faced with highest year-end murder count in decades, Lightfoot two weeks ago, called on courts to impose a “moratorium” on electronic surveillance of most people accused of gun violations or violent crimes. The mayor then made a formal request to Chief Justice Tim Evans in a letter dated December 29.
“I must continue to sound the alarm bells on the growing number of defendants being released into Chicago communities under electronic surveillance,” the mayor wrote. “The growing number of violent and dangerous people in EM is one of these drivers as they impact communities to which the return is multiple and harmful.”
In a statement Tuesday, Evans said that under US and state constitutions, Lightfoot’s demand to end electronic surveillance of certain defendants treated them as if they were “considered guilty until proven guilty. on the contrary â.
âA judge cannot hold someone before trial without concluding that the accused poses a real and current threat to the physical safety of any person. This must be found by clear and convincing evidence and the burden of proof is on the prosecution, âEvans wrote. “The mayor’s proposal appears to require that defendants facing certain allegations be held guilty until their innocence is proven.”
The use of electronic monitoring devices has increased dramatically since 2017, when Evans overhauled the list of judges responsible for bail hearings and issued a warrant that prioritized limiting the number of inmates awaiting trial at the Cook County Jail by providing affordable bail amounts and increasing bail and supervision.
The use of “EM” increased further in the spring of 2020, as prosecutors and judges scrambled to reduce the number of inmates in prison amid the rampant spread of COVID-19.
The number of defendants under electronic surveillance in mid-2021 was 3,599, an increase of about 1,400 from 2017 levels, according to a report from Evans’ office.
Lightfoot said last month she wanted an immediate moratorium on electronic offender monitoring when “the main charge is murder, attempted murder, aggravated gun possession, criminals in possession, crimes sexual offenses, illegal possession of firearms, carjacking, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping or other crimes of violence.
When those arrested are put on EM, they usually have to stay home and are fitted with a tracking device that alerts the sheriff’s office if they go to a place they are prohibited from going. The Pre-Trial Services Division, an agency under Evans’ jurisdiction, also operates an electronic monitoring program.
Lightfoot’s letter notes that of the 3,400 people currently under electronic surveillance, 2,300 face “violent crime” charges, including 90 murder suspects. The letter also lists defendants on EM for other crimes, including carjacking and possession of a gun by a criminal.
Chicago Police records show 130 people were arrested while under electronic surveillance for a “violent offense,” Lightfoot said. Evans noted that the figure of 130 would represent less than 1% of all cases that include a charge for a violent or gun-related offense.
More than 80% of defendants were not arrested on new charges while on bail, and only 3% were re-arrested for a violent offense, according to a 2020 rLoyola University researchers report.
Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell also noted that the vast majority of defendants who are released on EM are not re-arrested and show up to all of their pre-trial hearings.
âThe mayor has offered to detain people based on charges. It is unconstitutional. We need to have a hearing to consider whether a person should be detained, âMitchell said in a statement. âThe idea that people are innocent until proven guilty is not a dusty legal precedent. This fundamental right exists because our system gets it wrong all the time. Getting arrested for something doesn’t mean someone is guilty.