1. Channel 7 News recently did a story on the budget cuts proposed by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. The story quotes Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine saying that if his office were required to accept the budget cuts, then his office would be forced to accept more plea bargains. This was Dick Devine’s attempt to scare the Cook County Board, President Stroger, and the people of Cook County. The question that goes unanswered in the story is how many plea bargains are currently being accepted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office? Also, how would the reduction in staff lead to more, and is more really a bad thing for justice in Cook County?
It is believed that as many as 95% of the cases in Cook County that result in convictions come from plea bargains. If this is true, then how many more could result from a reduction in staff? The real question around the administration of justice in Cook County and the proposed budget cuts is what impact will the budget cuts have on the Cook County Public Defender’s Office?
It has been clearly demonstrated every year with the release of another wrongfully convicted individual that the administration of justice in Cook County is far from a balanced process. The Cook County Public Defender’s Office has demonstrated too often to be less then capable at representing the innocent. Reporters and researchers might want to ask how will the budget cuts the Cook County Public Defender’s Office is facing reduce their capabilities. Unless I am mistaken, is it harder for the Public Defender’s Office to successfully defend an innocent client then it is for the Prosecutor’s Office to convict a guilty one.
2. On January 25th the Suntimes ran a story about the mounting legal bills for convicted federal felon and ex Chicago Police Officer Joseph Miedzianowski. He is being sued by two ex Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents for ruining their careers. The story explains that Miedzianowski retaliated against the couple when they questioned Miedzianowski about the allegations from a suspect that Miedzianowski ripped him off. Miedzianowski is reported having been very vindictive when the agents had the nerve to believe the allegations of a drug dealer. In the end Miedzianowski is serving a life sentence for countless acts of armed robbery of drug dealers among other charges.
The main question is about whether or not the City should have to pay his legal bills. The City and the Chicago Police Department have to bare some responsibility for their inability to catch Miedzianowski at his game. Civil lawsuits like the one in this case serve two purposes, one being compensating an individual wronged by the actions of a abusive or corrupt cop, the other being serving as a financial deterrent for politicians and tax payers to make sure the officer’s actions are not repeated. This second purpose has never had a meaningful role in policing and justice in Chicago.
Carol Marin writing in Suntimes last year reported that the City has paid the following to settle lawsuits involving police brutality accusations:
- 2001 $26.4 million
- 2002 $13.1 million
- 2003 $11.2 million
- 2004 $27.2 million
- 2005 $20.7 million
- Overall, there were 864 cases totaling $98.6 million.
If the approximate $100 million in payouts has not served as a deterrent, it is hard to imagine what would