It is difficult enough to be arrested and charged with a crime, but the stress is even worse if you do not understand what the charges are. There are times when police and attorneys use legal terms that make no sense to someone who has been detained or that sound like the same thing. Is there really a difference, or are authorities just trying to intimidate you?
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program provides an easy framework for discussing different types of crime. The UCR program assigns each type of crime to one of three categories: crimes against property, crimes against the person and crimes against society. For example, arson is a crime against property, while kidnapping is a crime against the person. Drug crimes and weapons violations are counted as crimes against society.
Halloween is on a Saturday this year, and that generally means that both children and adults will be out in force. Trick-or-treating may last longer or start a little later, because it's not a school night. The same may be true for grown-up Halloween celebrations. Pedestrians, regardless of their age, and motorists should take extra care on Saturday.
Imagine you live in Detroit but you have taken a few days off to visit Chicago. One afternoon your house sitter texts you that two Detroit police officers had been looking for you. They had a warrant for your arrest: You are sure this has something to do with a large sum of money that went missing at your company. The house sitter urges you to come home quickly to clear up the misunderstanding.
We have been discussing the Illinois approach to overturning wrongful convictions. It's important to remember that a conviction is only wrongful if the man or woman did not commit the crime. In Illinois, though, being pardoned is not the same thing as establishing actual innocence, and only a finding of actual innocence -- and a certificate of innocence -- will wipe that conviction from the person's criminal record.
We are returning to wrongful convictions and certificates of innocence, picking up where we left off in our Aug. 26 post. It is important to remember that convictions are overturned or set aside for a number of reasons. There may have been procedural errors during the investigation or the trial, for example, that could lead a court of appeals to reverse a guilty verdict. Jury instructions may have been misleading, or evidence may have been improperly obtained.
Before we even begin talking about the probationary system, consider this amazing fact: according to federal data, only about two-thirds of people who are placed on probation actually complete their probationary term.
Illinois is not the only state nor is Chicago the only city that time and again finds itself addressing wrongful convictions. It may be a coincidence that the stories are remarkably similar regardless of where they took place. A crime occurs. The police identify a suspect, usually a young man, and detain him. He is questioned for hours, often lied to or tricked one way or another, until he signs a confession. That confession leads to a plea bargain, or a jury finds him guilty. He ends up in prison, serving a sentence that will keep him there for decades, if not the rest of his life.
Two recent exonerations in Cook County show just how difficult it can be to clear your name following a wrongful conviction. When we left off in our last post, we were talking about Daniel Andersen's situation.
In the movies, on television, in the papers -- wherever we turn it seems that the goal of a wrongfully convicted man or woman is exoneration. The term has come to mean not just that the guilty verdict has been overturned but that this man or woman has been proven innocent. Exoneration has become synonymous with having your name cleared and the slate wiped clean.