The Illinois Supreme Court is reinstating the state’s Speedy Trial Law effective October 1, and former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien and a group of former prosecutors warned Thursday that the move is likely to overwhelm an already clogged criminal justice system and lead to a sweeping dismissal of felony cases by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
O’Brien announced Thursday that he has extended an offer to Foxx to provide the free legal services of a group of former Assistant State’s Attorneys to prosecute the overflow of cases to avoid outright dismissal.
“The Speedy Trial law is about to be reinstated with little public attention and there is a significant backlog of open felony cases that have piled up in our courts during the pandemic,” said O’Brien. “If all of the defendants with pending felony cases choose to exercise their right to a speedy trial, it will wreak havoc on our criminal justice system, particularly here in Cook County.”
Foxx has signaled in media reports that her solution to the backlog will be to dismiss ‘lower level’ felony cases, but she has provided the public with no information on her plan to address the crisis. According to O’Brien, the dismissed cases could involve felony charges such as stalking, aggravated battery, possession of a gun by a felon, looting, burglary and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.
“I cannot think of a worse time in the history of crime and violence in Chicago for a State’s Attorney to even consider the wholesale dismissal of viable felony cases. It is an extreme injustice to victims – and to our criminal justice system as a whole,” said O’Brien.
To avoid what he termed a potential “miscarriage of justice,” O’Brien said he delivered a letter to Foxx three weeks ago offering the volunteer legal services of the former prosecutors’ to help fill staffing gaps that will be caused by the expected overwhelming number of demands for trial by defendants.
To date, neither Foxx nor her office has responded to O’Brien’s offer.
“We realize that this is a unique situation, and our offer is equally unique, but the dismissal of provable felony cases does not provide justice for the victims of crime and our communities as a whole,” said O’Brien.
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(Video Credit: Jason Baumann/Boxless Media)
(Photo Credit: Jason Baumann/Boxless Media)