Thursday, April 30, 2009


National Public Radio is reporting that Supreme Court Justice David Souter has informed the White House that he is retiring after serving 18 years on the nation's highest court. The report is unconfirmed but has been the subject of speculation the past few days. Justice Souter is 69 years old. Reports were coming out that he had not hired any law clerks. Justice Souter, who is from New Hampshire, has never enjoyed living in Washington D.C.

National Public Radio is also reporting that President Obama has informed Justice Souter that he is intending to appoint a woman. Now, all eyes are on President Obama to see who he will appoint.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Report Finds Massive Waste In Treatment of Misdemeanor Cases

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has issued a report highly critical of the way the criminal justice system deals with petty, nonviolent misdemeanors. The report claims that if many of these offenses were treated as infractions, rather than crimes, it would save millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars and better protect the rights of defendants without hurting public safety.

The report is entitled, "Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America's Misdemeanor Courts." To download a PDF version of this report, click here.

Researchers at the Seattle University School of Law visited misdemeanor courts in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. These researchers discovered that the average number of cases handled by public defenders in Benton County, Washington was 360, 380 in Seattle, 2,403 in Chicago, 2,502 in Utah and 18,720 in New Orleans. The researchers recommend that public defenders should not have more than 400 cases a year. Misdemeanor courts are the main reason for this heavy case load.

The findings are scheduled to be presented to the House Judiciary Committee on June 4.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Obama Administration Will Seek To Change Sentences

The Obama administration will be asking Congress to change Federal Sentencing Laws that create a disparity in jail sentences for dealing crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. We have previously written about this disparity in sentencing guidelines. Lawyers call this a "100 to 1" ratio for cocaine sentences. This means that a person convicted of selling five grams of crack cocaine faces the same prison sentence as someone convicted of selling 500 grams of powder cocaine. Many lawyers feel that this unfairly punishes black offenders since 82 percent of the defendants convicted in federal court of selling crack cocaine were black, while only nine percent were white. President Obama frequently mentioned this disparity in sentencing guidelines while he was campaigning for President. Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer testified before a Senate Committee yesterday and called for this sentencing disparity to be cured by Congress but did not spell out any details. However Bauer did call on Congress to fix the current law, which was originally written in 1986 during the height of concern over the spread of crack cocaine. Bauer stated that since 1986, prosecutors have developed a "refined understanding" of the differences between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

It is extremely rare for a politician to call for a reduction in prison sentences. Politicians are especially concerned about being seen as being soft on crime. In addition to this issue, the Obama administration is seeking to increase drug treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates once they are released from prison.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Supreme Court Applies Same Penalty for Shooting

In 2004, Christopher Michael Dean tried to rob a bank in Rome, Georgia. He went to the bank with a loaded gun. While he was moving the gun from one hand to the other, it accidentally went off. The bullet did not strike anyone and nobody was hurt. Needless to say, Dean was not successful in his robbery attempt and was arrested by the police. Since he tried to rob a bank, he was prosecuted by the federal government. Federal law provides for an automatic 10 year prison penalty for firing a gun during a crime. Dean argued that since the gun went off accidentally, the automatic 10 year provision should not apply. The Supreme Court agreed with federal prosecutors by finding that federal law does not care if the gun was fired intentionally or went off by accident. The statute does not differentiate between accidental or intentional discharge of the firearm. In a statement from the bench, Chief Justice John Roberts said that if criminals want to avoid the penalty for accidental gunfire, they can "lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violent or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home or - best yet - avoid committing the felony in the first case."

This was a 7 to 2 decision. Justice Stevens and Breyer dissented arguing that Congress only meant for the intentional discharge of a firearm.

The case is Dean v. United States, 08-5274.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Supreme Court Allows Jailhouse Informant to Testify

The Supreme Court allowed a jailhouse informant to testify for impeachment purposes even though the statements made were illegally obtained. Donny Ray Ventris and Rhonda Theel were charged by Kansas prosecutors with the murder of Ernest Hicks. Theel pled guilty to robbery and agreed to testify against Ventris in exchange for having the murder charges dropped against her. At trial, Ventris testified that Theel was the shooter and was solely responsible for the murder. Police had placed a confidential informant in the jail cell next to Ventris when he was in custody after the murder. Ventris had told the confidential informant that he had shot Hicks in the head, stolen his wallet and $350 and taken his car. The state used the testimony of the confidential informant to impeach Ventris. Ventris was eventually convicted of Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Burglary. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the testimony of the confidential informant could not be used because Ventris had not been read his Miranda warnings prior to being questioned by the state's confidential informant. The United States Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the testimony of the confidential informant could be used only for impeachment purposes. The Court ruled that the state could not use the informant's testimony in their case in chief, but only for impeachment purposes.

This was a 7 to 2 decision. The dissenting Justices were Stevens and Ginsburg.

The case is Kansas v. Ventris, 07-1356.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C. visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Supreme Court Rules For Tenn. Death-Row Inmate

In a follow up to our blog of December 9, 2008, the United States Supreme Court today ruled in favor of Tennessee death-row inmate Gary Bradford Cone who was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty for beating an elderly couple to death in 1980. Cone claimed he had been deprived of key evidence at his trial. Cone admitted he committed the murders. However, he claimed that he was a drug addict who suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome following his military service in Vietnam. At the trial, the prosecutor ridiculed his claims as "baloney." Later, it was discovered that prosecutors had withheld information that could back Cone's claims including police and FBI communications describing Cone as a drug addict and witness statements describing his weird behavior. Cone was able to obtain these documents following a Freedom of Information request rather than being voluntarily given the documents by the prosecutor. During oral arguments, the justices showed bursts of anger towards Tennessee prosecutors for not turning over the evidence.

The case is being returned to the federal district court to determine whether the withheld evidence unfairly affected the jury's decision to sentence him to death.

The case is Cone v. Bell, 07-1114.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Charges in XBox Killing

Chicago police charged a man with first degree murder after the victim was shot and killed by the shooter while they were playing an XBox video game. The victim's girlfriend told police that just after 11 p.m. on April 5, she left the victim's home with the victim and the shooter playing the Call of Duty game. When she returned she saw the shooter running from the victim's home carrying a gun. When she entered the residence she found the victim lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head, an XBox game controller in his hands and the Call of Duty video game still playing on the console and television. The police believe that the men argued but do not know if the argument was due to the XBox video game. The shooter was on the run for about 3 weeks before being caught. There was also an outstanding warrant for him out of North Carolina.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Man Shot 10 Times And Survives

The Southtown Star reports that a man in his 40's was shot 10 times in Calumet Heights, survived, and has actually been upgraded to "stabilized." The shooting happened after the man argued with 3 other individuals in the far-South suburb. 10 shots were fired and 4 bullets struck him in the buttocks and 6 struck him in the leg. He was taken to Trinity Hospital. Police are investigating the incident.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Traffic Stop Results in Big Drug Bust

The Daily Herald reports that a routine traffic stop by McClean County Sheriff's Office K9 unit of a motor home resulted in them finding 237 pounds of cocaine. The motor home was stopped in I-55 in central Illinois. The location of the stop was northeast of Normal, Illinois. The article states that the drugs were found in a concealed compartment of the vehicle. The drugs are worth between $2.1 million and $3.7 million.

You can view the actual article by clicking here.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense lawyers at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Budget Problems Affecting Public Defenders and Federal Prosecutors

In good times, funding for Public Defenders is hard to come by. But when the economy starts to slide and funding becomes an issue for governmental agencies, funding for Public Defenders becomes a crisis issue. It's a vicious cycle. When the economy declines, crime rates tend to increase and more and more defendants are unable to hire an attorney. At the same time, local and state governments are taking in less and less tax revenue making funding of Public Defenders a serious problem. The problem has become so bad, that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed lawsuits in Connecticut, Washington, Montana and Pennsylvania. All of the ACLU lawsuits have resulted in improved legal services for indigent defendants. In Georgia a lawsuit has been filed by criminal defendants claiming that they were held too long because their public defenders had inadequate funding and asking that the charges against them be dismissed. When Public Defenders are not adequately funded, case loads increase for existing public defenders increasing the risk that defendants will be wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. The wrongful imprisonment will ultimately cost the taxpayers more money since they will be paying to imprison these wrongfully convicted defendants.

Budget problems are also starting to affect federal prosecutors. The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General reports that staff shortages in the New York office of the federal prosecutor is affecting the handling of cases. The result has been that prosecutions for white collar crimes has been lax and uneven throughout the United States. Each case requires massive effort and budget problems have been blamed for unfilled positions in the prosecutor's office.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys, visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Friday, April 24, 2009

CTA Crime Rates Up Drastically

The other day we posted a blog about a drop in the number of traffic deaths on Illinois roads. Today, the Chicago Sun-Times posted an article that is somewhat related to our blog. They report that from 2006 to 2008, the number of robberies reported on Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains, platforms and buses increased a whopping 77%. The number of thefts has increased by 6%. An example of a theft would be a pickpocket. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Illinois hit 9.3% and high gas prices have contributed in seeing ridership on the CTA buses and trains increasing by 6% from 2006 to 2008. Chicago police have responded to these increased numbers by conducting special undercover operations at certain high crime locations at certain peak times. The Chicago Police report that 4,933 arrests occurred in 2008 compared to 4,576 in 2007.

The reason we believe this article is related to Wednesday's post is that it illustrates how economic factors impact our travel habits. When job loses increase along with gas prices, fewer people drive their cars on the roads causing a drop in traffic deaths. Conversely, ridership on our public transportation systems increase causing an increase in crime on trains and buses.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Pedestrian Stings Begin

On Monday we posted a blog about the Chicago Police announcing that they will start undercover stings at intersections to nab drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians. Apparently, the police wasted no time. The Chicago Tribune reports that the first sting happened yesterday at the intersection of Nagle Avenue and Peterson Avenue. Police ticketed 18 motorists who failed to stop or slow down for undercover pedestrians in the crosswalk. Ample warning was given. Warnings were posted on this blog and on the Chicago Department of Transportation website. The Chicago Department of Transportation website has actual locations and times of planned undercover stings. Click here to see the sting schedule. The City has announced that at least 50 sting operations are planned throughout the city until fall of this year.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Illinois Traffic Deaths and Accidents Drop in 2008

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that 1,043 people died on Illinois roads last year, the lowest number since 1923. This represents a 16% decrease in traffic deaths from the year before. Nationally, the number of traffic deaths in 2008 were down 10.6% from the year before.

Our elected public officials, who are always eager to take credit for things like this, point to changes in traffic laws as the reason. They argue that the increased use of traffic safety checkpoints, mandatory seat belt laws, stricter DUI laws, requiring teens to wait nine months instead of three months to get their license, traffic cameras and stricter enforcement of existing laws are responsible for these lower numbers. However, a counter argument can be made that a slowing economy and high gas prices also played a role in the lower numbers. Officially, the number of vehicles on the road dropped by 2.4% nationally, and 2% in Illinois. Some people think this number is actually higher. Interestingly, these same public officials are unwilling to take responsibility for the slowing economy and the high gas prices.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Warning: Chicago About To Ramp-Up Booting Efforts

The City of Chicago is coming after motorists who have two or more unpaid parking tickets that are older than one year. In an effort to deal with a budget shortfall, the Chicago City Council lowered the threshold for the boot from five unpaid tickets to two. 65,318 notices have been mailed out by the city. About 415 vehicles have already been booted. This move by the City comes at a time of mounting layoffs and economic difficulties affecting the public.

After decades of mismanaging Chicago's budget, the City is now beginning it's assault on the motorists and taxpayers to clean up their mess. Apparently, the revenue from the red light cameras is not enough. We wonder what they will come up with next.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www. the legal or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Judge Removes Public Defenders From Death Penalty Case

In a move that this author has never before heard of, a Cook County Judge removed the Public Defender from a case involving a Defendant facing the Death Penalty for murdering a Chicago police officer. The Defendant, Lamar Cooper, refused to disclose his assets to prove he was indigent. The Cook County Circuit Court Judge, Nicholas Ford, was seeking information regarding whether Cooper was truly indigent. Cooper asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to fill out an Affidavit of Assets and Liabilities as usually required of indigent defendants as a condition of having a Public Defender appointed to represent them. It is virtually unheard of to have a defendant fill out an Affidavit of Assets and Liabilities in a Death Penalty case. However, after Cooper was arrested, investigators found $260,000 in cash in 2 safe-deposit boxes, a time-share condominium and an expensive SUV. Judge Ford apparently suspects that Cooper is hiding substantial assets. Prosecutors believe that Cooper is a drug dealer. The case is certain to go before the Illinois Supreme Court since it involves numerous tricky and novel issues of law. In the past few years, the Illinois Supreme Court has issued new rules and reforms designed to deal with the state's highly publicized troubles with it's Death Penalty system.

Judge Ford has been the subject a previous posting on our blog. On December 20, 2008 we posted a blog about how Judge Ford was able to nab a criminal that was tampering with his wife's car.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Search of Vehicles

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a major decision impacting the warrantless search of a vehicle. In the case, Rodney Joseph Gant, had been pulled over in Arizona and arrested for driving with no license. He was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the squad car. The arresting officers then searched his car and found illegal drugs and charged him with possession of drugs. The trial court allowed the seized drugs into evidence and Grant was convicted of the drug offense. The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and in a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court ruled that when a suspect is locked up and secured in the squad car and poses no threat to anyone, the police need a warrant to conduct a search of the vehicle. It seems as if this decision places limits on the police's ability to search a vehicle, especially when the reason for the offense is nothing more serious than a traffic offense. The majority opinion indicated that the police would be justified in searching the vehicle if the passenger compartment is within reach of the subject and the officers had reason to believe that evidence of the crime for which the defendant was being arrested would be found within the vehicle. Unless those factors were present, the Court said that a warrant would be necessary to conduct a search of the vehicle.

This opinion seems to place restrictions on a "Search Incident to a Lawful Arrest." It seems that this decision will mainly affect individuals arrested for traffic offenses.

The case is Arizona v. Gant, 07-542.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Expungement Problems Persist

On December 10, 2008 we posted a blog about how the Illinois State Police have been refusing to enforce expungement orders issued by Judges. In January of this year, the Illinois State Police entered into a settlement with Cook County Chief Judge Paul Biebel and agreed to abandon this practice and to file any objections with the court and allow the judge to decide whether to grant the petition. You would think that this would put an end to this issue but it hasn't. About 1,800 orders issued between 2006 and 2008 have not been enforced. 900 orders issued between 1991 and 2006 have not been enforced and 5% of the orders issued in 2008 have not been enforced. There has been no agreement as to how to deal with those outstanding orders and class action lawsuits are now being threatened.

We direct you to read this excellent article from The Chicago Reporter which discusses this issue in great detail.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Update on Illinois Medical Marijuana Legislation

On November 8, 2008, we posted our first blog about the efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois. On February 6, 2009 we posted an updated blog discussing how the effort to enact this measure took a step back when it was defeated in a committee vote in the legislature. We are pleased to report that the effort to enact medical marijuana in Illinois is alive and kicking. On March 25, 2009, the Senate Public Health Committee passed the bill on a 6 to 2 vote. On March 4, 2009, the House Human Services Committee passed a companion bill. These votes mean that the legislation is poised for a vote before the Senate and the House. However, it appears as if there are not yet enough committed votes to send the measure to the Governor for approval.

We urge our readers to join in the effort to make Illinois the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana. One more strong and final push is urgently needed. Contact your legislators and urge them to do the right thing and side with the consumers and give needy patients a real alternative to costly prescription drugs to help alleviate their pain and suffering. If we make our voices heard we can help make changes to our drug laws that will actually do some good and help people who are in urgent need of some help.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Cook County Changes to Electronic Monitoring Program

For many months we have been reporting on efforts by Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, to change the way the Electronic Monitoring Program is run in Cook County. The Electronic Monitoring Program was implemented many years ago to deal with the problem of overcrowding in the Cook County Jail. Inmates that are considered non-violent, and usually held for minor criminal violations, are fitted with an electronic bracelet around their ankle that transmits an electronic signal which notifies jail personnel when they leave their home. This bracelet allows inmates to spend time at home rather than jail.

Sheriff Dart has taken steps which has drastically cut down the number of inmates on Electronic Monitoring. He has been working on efforts to place the decision of who should be placed on Electronic Monitoring to judges rather than jail personnel.

A "Special Update" has been placed on the Sheriff's website. The "Special Update" reads as follows:

Since 15 December 2008, placements onto Electronic Monitoring are being made in Central Bond Court. Recently arrested persons who wish to be placed on Electronic Monitoring should immediately notify their attorneys and/or court personnel of this fact.

In addition, persons incarcerated in the Department of Corrections may ask their attorneys to bring the same request in the appropriate court.

The practical effect of this change is that in order for an inmate to be eligible for Electronic Monitoring, a judge must first find that the inmate is eligible for Electronic Monitoring. So when a judge sets a bond, the judge will also determine whether that inmate can be released on Electronic Monitoring. An inmate will not be placed on Electronic Monitoring unless a judge has found that the inmate is eligible for this program.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Undercover Cops Posing As Pedestrians To Start Issuing Tickets

The Chicago Police Department has been cracking down on motorists who don't yield to pedestrians crossing the street. Officers will start pulling over and ticketing motorists who do yield to undercover plainclothes officers posing as pedestrians at intersections that are not controlled by traffic control devices. This effort started several weeks ago when police started issuing warning to motorists. Now the police will start issuing traffic tickets which carry fines up to $500 per ticket. Currently, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians that are in the crosswalk. There is legislation currently pending in Springfield which would require drivers to stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. Eleven other states, and the District of Columbia, have similar laws. Under the proposed legislation, a ticket for failure to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk would carry a minimum fine of $150. Approximately 6,000 accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians occur in Illinois every year. Approximately half of those accidents have occurred in Chicago. The number of such accidents has been declining nationally but staying at the same level in Illinois.

The Chicago police have made it known that they plan on having several high profile undercover operations throughout the City until at least September of this year. An undercover officer, posing as a pedestrian, will enter an uncontrolled intersection and if an approaching driver fails to yield, they will be stopped and ticketed by uniformed officers. Some of the intersections mentioned are Peterson and Nagle, 119th Street and Stewart Avenue, 103rd Street and South Prairie Avenue, and 86th Street and Commercial Avenue. Our readers are advised to be especially careful at those locations.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

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