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Could Chicago man get life term based on presumed guilt?

The standard of justice that the United States is supposed to follow is one rooted in the notion that one is presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty. That doesn't always play out in actual court proceedings, however, as the case of one young Chicago man that made the news reveals.

The case involves a 26-year-old individual who was convicted last year in federal court on drug charges. He appeared in court last week for sentencing on those charges and when he did, prosecutors asked the judge to make it a life term. 

To bolster its case for that penalty, the prosecution introduced evidence at the hearing suggesting that the defendant had been responsible for the 2008 murder of a Chicago police officer and a woman who happened to be with him the night they were slain. The thing is, he has never been convicted of the allegation. Indeed, plans to prosecute him for the crime were shelved when witnesses recanted stories implicating him.

Prosecutors allege witness intimidation prompted those recantations. They further allege that a gang, of which the defendant is purported to be a member, was responsible for the intimidation.

The hearing was reportedly set to resume Thursday. At that time, the defense was expected to present witnesses who will say that the implications of the defendant were the result of police intimidation. At the time this is posted, it's not known if that happened. 

As this story reflects, how we think things should go in court based on broad-stroke constitutional tenets and what we might have gleaned from watching television crime shows, doesn't necessarily play out in reality. It also reinforces why it's important for anyone facing the criminal justice system to seek experienced legal counsel.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Underling told cops gang leader killed 'to show off'," Steve Schmadeke, Aug. 22, 2014

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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