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My new criminal defense practice in Springfield, IL is still in its infancy. I began renting an office on March 1 but didn’t sign up my first client until mid-April. This was really all right with me. During that six weeks I had time to rebuild my law library, refresh my criminal procedure and catch-up on changes to the law since I left the practice in 2013. My first felony client was in custody at the local county jail. He began passing around my business card to fellow inmates. Then my phone really began ringing. Unlike in Chicago, inmates here…
There is a common misconception that criminal defense lawyers spend all their time in court getting guilty people off. Because of movies and television shows that so often inaccurately depict what we really do this is understandable. What I do is represent defendants in criminal court to make sure the law is applied to them correctly. You might want to know what this means. Let me explain. I can break down my felony clients into one of three basic categories. 1. Likely to plead guilty: these clients are typically factually guilty and the police work that led to their arrest…
I have represented many defendants accused of armed robbery with a firearm. But there was one case in particular that was so unexpected as to be unforgettable. My client, who plead guilty to these facts and was sentenced to a few years in prison, approached another teenage boy who was sitting at a bus stop and happened to be wearing brand new Air Jordan basketball shoes, which in certain Chicago neighborhoods (and elsewhere) are like the Rolls Royce of footwear, and give to their wearer a certain status shared by few. “Give me them Jordan’s,” the man waiting for…
My last Chicago jury trial was a murder case. I briefly mentioned this case not too long ago in a different blog post. The trial ended in a guilty verdict, but it was actually a win for the defense. How? Read on. The man who would become my client was about thirty-years-old. He had a series of intimate encounters with a certain young woman who was the frequent lover of another woman. Read that again. The other woman turned out to be insanely jealous and was at the time living somewhere in Iowa. From there she made several threats…
The purpose of bail is to ensure the presence of the defendant at future court dates. How the amount is set depends on many factors, such as the defendant’s criminal history and biographical information (living situation, level of education, employment status and so forth). The allegations of the current crime are also heavily considered, along with any prior failures to appear in court. Conceptually, bail, except for the most serious of allegations where the defendant poses a significant risk to the public should they be released, is supposed to be set within the financial means of the defendant. This was…
I once had a case where my client was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm found in his car. I filed a motion to suppress the gun. Though many facts were in dispute at the hearing on that motion, the issue was clear: does a spouse have the legal authority to consent to the search of their husband’s/wife’s car? The main allegation in my motion was that my client’s wife did not have legal authority to consent to a search of his car. My client refused to give permission for obvious reasons. His wife after being…
Following the unlikely August 2011 Kenneth Green verdict there appeared an article the next morning in one of the suburban Chicago newspapers. For those unfamiliar with this case it was like this: Kenneth Green shot two Chicago police officers who were executing a search warrant in his home. There was no dispute about that fact. He did shoot two police officers, and was charged with the attempted murder of the those two police officers. On the surface this looked like an open-and-shut case: guilty, right? But that’s not what happened. He was found not guilty on all charges. I was…
This is a story from my time in Chicago representing felony defendants. This is a perfect example of how an innocent person can end up in the county jail facing a felony charge. A young woman began to have problems with her boyfriend. The relationship was turning abusive. The boyfriend was calling her job all day long. He would even come and stand outside of her work at times. It was a major disruption at her place of employment. A couple of months later she had had enough. She moved out. Friends from work helped her move. A short time…
Detectives will typically ask to speak to you for one of two reasons: either they believe you witnessed a crime or you’re a suspect in a crime they are investigating. I am going to briefly discuss the second scenario. By the time a detective contacts you there’s a pretty good chance you’re the prime suspect. In my experience detectives often get tunnel vision when they like a suspect for the crime they are investigating. When this happens, they hyper focus on one person and one theory of the case while ignoring other suspects and other evidence. You can see how…
Before the State of Illinois can formally charge someone with a felony one of two things must first happen: either a finding a probable cause by a preliminary hearing judge or a true bill of indictment from a grand jury. What are the differences? Preliminary hearings are adversarial, meaning both the prosecutor and defense attorney are present. These short hearings are usually for non-violent felonies, such drugs and firearm’s possession. The prosecutor typically calls to testify the arresting officer who answers a short list of questions: were they on duty on such and such a date at such and such…
Early on in my former Chicago practice I was sitting one morning in misdemeanor court on West Flournoy street with a few other lawyers as we waited to have our cases called. Sitting next to me was an older lawyer in a badly wrinkled suit. He was desperately in need of a haircut and looked very tired. We started talking. He could tell I was new. He asked me, “You want some friendly advice?” “Sure.” “Stay away from felony court!” “Really?” At that moment, I couldn’t wait to get to felony court. That’s where all the action is. The real…
I once in Chicago represented a young man arrested and charged with murder. The murder happened after a failed car jacking in the south side neighborhood of Gage Park.The entire case was a police fabrication and I knew it. How did I know? As soon as I shook my client’s hand I knew he wasn’t a killer. When you’re around criminals every day, you learn to easily spot the violent ones; there’s an unmistakable hardness to them and their eyes are somehow darker. This young man, my new client, would go out his way to not step on a bug…
This is an old blog post I wrote when I was still practicing in Chicago. This was a very unique case. I was just 40 years-old trying a career case that was like pitching game seven of The World Series and quarterbackingThe Super Bowl all wrapped together. The pressure was immeasurable. Had he been convicted my client would have spent the rest of his life in prison. What follows is a long read but, I think, it’s worth it. My second novel, “Concealed Carry,” was loosely based on this case but wholly different factually. In early August 2009,…
I found a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision interesting. The court in People v. Manning addressed an interesting issue….whether jurors’ inability to unanimously agree upon whether a mitigating factor exists, for purposes of second-degree murder, results in a finding of first-degree murder, as charged and as necessarily found by the jury in the required statutory progression. My last jury trial in Chicago was a first-degree murder case that I tried as self-defense, which is what the Manning case was about. Second degree murder is first-degree murder but with mitigating factors present. In other words, the defendant caused the death of…
My first two years out of law school found me working for a downtown Chicago law firm and practicing in an area of law that didn’t really interest me: workers’ compensation defense. I worked on the behalf of employers and insurance companies, and it was impossible for me to feel much passion for the work. So, in late 2008 I went solo and began taking criminal cases; first in misdemeanor court but within a month or so I was handling felonies at 26th & California in that old Chicago courthouse that is both famous and infamous. I was extremely passionate…