As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, LauraLaw would like to wish everybody well and urge everyone who has the ability – to stay home. As law offices are deemed an essential service, there will be some (but not all) employees at the office this week/month so if you have a legal emergency then they are there for you. But again – if you can, please stay home. This is a serious disease and not taking it seriously could be fatal not only to you but those you love and other members of our society. It is many times more deadly than the Flu, more infectious, and much easier to spread when asymptomatic – meaning you could be feeling fine, but still have the virus and pass it off to others. Our infrastructure is already at a breaking point and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better. How worse it gets will depend on if people take their safety and others’ safety seriously enough. And yes, while this does affect older people and those with health complications more than the average healthy young person – those people are as valuable as any and it’s a bit discomfiting to see how much this excuse is used as a reason to not take this seriously. There’s also the fact that this disease is incredibly dangerous to anybody if they get it but we also shouldn’t be dismissing suffering because it comes from where we expect it to.
However, If your work higher-ups are being ruthless and not allowing you time off or to work at home, then obviously you do what you have to do to make ends meet and the blame falls much more on an exploitive system that forces people to work back-breaking hours just so they can survive. This is not unique to a pandemic and I urge everyone to reflect on the way that resources we need to survive and live decently – water, food, healthcare, toiletries, shelter, etc.. have been commodified to the point where you have to be a competitor in a ruthless capitalistic market to even have a chance of affording these things. And still some don’t. Before laughing and judging at the people rushing to grab precious items from stores, please reflect on how these situations are not produced necessarily by the selfishness or amorality of shoppers – but by a system that doesn’t make sure to freely provide these things to everybody. I think it’s also worth reflecting on how the way that our economic system incentives us to view our fellow human beings has contributed to this disaster. Most people are in competition with each other just to make a livelihood and the people who don’t have to worry about that are those that can look at low wage labor as a shiftless, dehumanized mass that only exists to further their capital accumulation. So many people look at their fellow human beings as enemies when we need as much solidarity as we can to make it through this thing. I just pray that after this is all over, people won’t be willing to jump back into the same type of exploitive society that has helped make this problem worse. Please treat others kindly and with compassion. Stay inside and safe so that others can be safe too. And please also listen to health experts rather than businessmen or politicians who have profit interests involved in whatever they say. Stay safe.
By: Tim Black
As promised, you can look to LauraLaw for continued updates on coronavirus court closures in the Chicagoland area during this period of social distancing and home confinement. To that end, the Circuit Court of Cook County has announced that Chief Judge Timothy Evans has entered Amended General Administrative Order 2020-01 effective immediately in replacement of his previous order on coronavirus court closures and court operations.
Pursuant to the new Order, the Court is continuing all cases an additional 30 days after May 30, 2020 with a few exceptions we will discuss below. What does that mean for you?
If you are arrested and charged with a new case, you will be given a bail hearing in the normal course of business, but instead of appearing live in front of a judge, the Court will conduct the hearing via videoconference. A practice that is already in place in many courthouses throughout the country, you will appear via live feed from either Cook County Jail or the department that arrested you, while your attorney, the State’s Attorney, and the Judge are in the courtroom. If you are issued an I-Bond or a D-Bond that you can post immediately, you will be processed and released from the facility you are in. In other words, if you are arrested in Park Ridge, you can bond directly out of the Park Ridge Police Department instead of Cook County Jail. If you are arrested, remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS, ask to contact us here at LauraLaw, and REMAIN SILENT.
If you have a pending felony, all matters except for emergency hearings and hearings to execute a plea agreement will be continued 30 days. All jury trials that have not yet started will be continued, all bench trials will be continued, all motion hearings and all status dates will likewise be continued. As of April 3, 2020 all Chicago Branch Courts will be closed; if you have a case in Branch 38 (727 E. 111th St.) or Branch 44 (“Harrison & Kedzie” – 3150 W. Flournoy St.) and it does not fall into the category of cases continued 30 days, starting Monday, April 3, it will be heard at the Leighton Criminal Court Building (“26th & California” – 2600 S. California Ave.). If we represent you on a pending felony and you are confused about how the order affects your case, please contact us.
If you have a pending traffic or misdemeanor case (including a DUI), it will be given a new date sometime after May 18, 2020. You may have received notice from the Clerk of the Circuit Court after the Chief Judge’s previous order was entered with a new Court date in April or May. If the court date you received was before May 18, 2020, it will again be rescheduled. As with the previous Order, the Clerk of the Circuit Court will send notice to your mailing address with your new court date. If we represent you, please contact us when you receive that notice. If we represent you and you have not received notice by May 10, 2020, please contact us and we will contact the Clerk to determine your new court date. As noted above, starting April 3, 2020, all Chicago Branch Courts will be closed; if you have a case at Branch 23 or Branch 29 (“Grand & Central” – 5555 W. Grand Ave.), Branch 35 (727 E. 111th St.), or Branch 43 (“Harrison & Kedzie” – 3150 W. Flournoy St.), and there is an emergency that requires you to be in court, the matter will be heard at the Leighton Criminal Court Building (“26th & California” – 2600 S. California Ave.). If we represent you on a pending misdemeanor or traffic matter and you are confused about how the order affects your case, please contact us.
If you have any other matter pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, I encourage you to look at Chief Judge Evans’s Amended Order to determine how you are affected by the Coronavirus Court Closures. There is a lot of information and a lot of misinformation surrounding coronavirus and the Coronavirus Court Closures so remember to be diligent and do your research. If you have any questions about the Coronavirus Court Closures, about your criminal matter, or about Tiger King, please contact us and we will do our best to answer your questions. As always, if you should find yourself under arrest, remember to exercise your right to remain silent and contact us; we will be happy to discuss your case and determine if we can help you resolve it. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay inside, and wash your hands often.
By: Tim Black
Sometimes it takes a little Coronavirus Court Closures, a little social distancing, and a little working from home to realize how much you love your job. As I sit at my dining room table, surrounded by the mess I have neglected during wedding planning, wedding having, honeymooning, and catching up after wedding having, I miss Maddy‘s stories, Laura‘s TV recaps, Dean trying to hide my coat, Suzanne putting out fires related to her kids’ school, and college basketball chats with Jake. It takes a different level of dedication to pore through police reports with a fully-stocked kitchen and a fully-operational television a mere ten feet away. But this is the reality for now – I don’t want to be a spreader. #DontBeASpreader
Luckily for us, and luckily for our clients, the Coronavirus has prompted Cornoavirus Court Closures in the Circuit Courts of Cook County and DuPage County, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and the Sheriff’s Merit Board, and have rescheduled almost every proceeding for a date beyond mid-April. If you click on the name of the Court in the last sentence, it will link you to that Court’s announcement about Court closures. For the most part, if you have a misdemeanor or traffic case between now and April 15, 2020, it will be rescheduled. Pay attention to your mail – the Clerk will send you a notice. The same goes for felony cases with a few exceptions – plea agreements, arraignments, bond hearings, and detention hearings will all be held, as will emergency matters.
It is important that everyone does their part to stem the spread of the Coronavirus beyond the Coronavirus Court Closures, and these first few weeks are most essential. We recommend that you take a few minutes to check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for best practices and continue to monitor the CDC website, the court websites, and this website for some of the latest breaking news about the Coronavirus and how it affects you.
Rest assured that through the Coronavirus Court Closures, although we are not necessarily in the office during this time of social distancing, we are hard at work finding all of the holes in the prosecution’s case, examining every angle of your defense, and preparing to fight for you. This Coronavirus is not keeping us down – it’s giving us extra time to prepare. Just like LeBron, we aren’t wasting this time; we will come back for the playoffs stronger and better rested than we have ever been and it should scare our adversaries. If you need to contact us, we may not always be available on the office telephone line, but don’t let that stop you from calling us on our cell phone if you have the number or emailing us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
In the meantime, take these Coronavirus Court Closures as an opportunity to work on a project you’ve been meaning to finish, to master an old hobby or learn a new one, and to spend quality time with your loved ones. Try not to go crazy and remember to wash your hands. We’ll see you on the other side.
P.S. – CONGRATULATIONS to our own Patrick O’Brien for defeating Christopher Pfannkuche for the Republican nomination for Cook County State’s Attorney in the Primary on Tuesday. He will go on to face Kim Foxx in the general election. Congratulations Pat, good luck in November, and we could not think of a better candidate in the entire state of Illinois to run the State’s Attorney’s Office. For more information on Pat’s platform and ways to support his campaign, click this link to his campaign website and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Per Lexi Cortes of the Belleville News-Democrat, 36 people have been evicted from Granite City public housing projects in the years spanning 2014 to 2018 for violating the cities strict crime free housing ordinance. A number of these evictees saw themselves lose their homes because they called for help when either overdosing themselves or seeing someone with them overdose. One case in particular that Cortes covers, sticks out in regards to this. In 2016, a 27 year old man witnessed his girlfriend pass out during drug use and worried she had overdosed. He called an ambulance and the woman would thankfully end up ok. However, a month later the man received an eviction notice stating he had violated the cities crime free housing policy by the drug use that triggered the resulting incident. So, it was this call to 911 in particular, that caused the government to become notified of the man’s drug use. It was Opioids specifically, and like many impoverished parts of communities across the country, this has been an ongoing epidemic for the city as Cortes notes. She writes that there were a record high 109 drug related deaths in Madison County- where Granite City resides- in the year 2018. Heroin and Fentanyl in particular have devastated the area and triggered many of the evictions that Cortes is writing about. Some of the issues with these policies- beyond just the immorality of evicting tenants- is that these type of incidents foster and incentivize a culture of silence rather than outreach. If you can lose your home for calling for an ambulance, that is a significantly problematic byproduct of no crime housing policies. It is understandable that one wouldn’t want to incentivize the use of drug use in a housing project or allow said project to become a drug house, but there are many options less punitive that could be sought out. The man evicted for calling 911 wrote a poignant letter of appeal to the city government, trying to reverse the decision they made on his eviction. It was unsuccessful. He apologized for his trouble with drug use, and pleaded with the city that stripping him of his housing would significantly destabilize his already vulnerable mental health situation. He vowed he would make good on going to rehabilitation if he could be given the proper resources to best take advantage of it. The content of the letter speaks to the other options available in these situations. The city could help those who struggle with drug use by providing the resources that allow people suffering from addiction to best treat it. It could be less punitive and not have zero tolerance policies on the issue, realizing that the ongoing Opioid epidemic is a significant complicating factor in this crisis and one that can be out of an individual control.
It’s also hard not to look at this issue through a class conscious lens. These policies tend to most significantly impact those in the most vulnerable financial situations and also those communities with a high minority population- the city is facing two civil rights lawsuits regarding their enforcement of this policy- It’s not an overstatement to say that stable housing is absolutely critical for one’s physical and emotional welfare and the ability to have a decent life. It should be a human right and not a commodity on a Capitalistic market place in which exploitative and discriminatory housing policies have been the norm rather than the exception. This lack of empathy in Institutional policy is noticeable. To look at that letter from a man suffering from addiction, depression, and poverty, and basically ignore it wholesale certainly feels like it’s in keeping with the spirit of our age. Furthermore, as Cortes notes, many of the evictions also stem from property crimes such as trespassing that are at many times intertwined with drug use. This is one of the more openly capitalistic aspects of law enforcement and city government- keeping those who are property-less from accessing the private fiefs of the propertied class- It’s an emphasis on prioritizing those who usually have everything while not only ignoring but also persecuting those who have nothing. Autonomy over one’s living situation should be guaranteed, but is largely impossible when you struggle with poverty, a job that underpays you, and the always constant presence of strict law enforcement hanging over your actions like a scythe. Empathy should be the lens through which we make institutional policies, not punishment.
On New Year’s Eve, the night before the long-anticipated legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Illinois, Governor Pritzker pardoned over 11,000 people with low-level marijuana convictions. Illinois is the first state to include a process for those previously convicted of marijuana possession to seek relief upon the legalization of marijuana. The linked article explains the difference between a pardon and expungement in further detail, but the essential difference is that a pardon forgives the conviction while an expungement erases all record of it from the public record. If you have a criminal record that you would like to have removed from your record, please contact us here at LauraLaw and one of our attorneys will be happy to help you navigate that process.
As various news channels reported, there were people camped out all night in front of the dispensaries waiting for them to open with the legalization of marijuana on New Year’s Day. Officials say that demand far outweighs the current supply, especially given that more dispensaries have yet to open and the patchwork of towns/villages/cities that allowed dispensaries, those that did not, and those that decided to have their own city referendum on the legalization of marijuana in November.
Here at LauraLaw we have written extensively on the legalization of marijuana over the past few years. If you have any legal needs surrounding the legalization of marijuana, do not hesitate to contact us. The intersection of existing laws with the legalization of marijuana will undoubtedly be heavily litigated over the next few years and having an experienced attorney looking out for your rights will be very important to your successful navigation of those laws. The DUI drug law in and of itself is a minefield of issues and the science of testing a “high” driver has not yet caught up to the legalization of marijuana. With that being said, it is important to remember that although Illinois has passed the legalization of marijuana, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. The evolving issue in this area is the development of the technology to determine whether the driver was impaired and drove (illegal) or whether the driver ingested cannabis at some earlier time-up to 28 days earlier as marijuana can stay in the system for up to a month. The rules around determining the level of impairment and the training provided to officers in detecting impairment are continuing to develop and have lagged behind the legalization of marijuana so we expect that they will be refined in the Court.
For a comprehensive discussion of all things related to the legalization of marijuana, including the locations of dispensaries, this month’s Chicago Magazine has devoted the entire issue to the legalization of marijuana. It’s a very interesting read!
To me personally, the legalization of marijuana is incredibly historic. At the age of 62, I’m at the tail end of the Boomer generation and, frankly, I never thought I would see the day when Illinois would legalize marijuana. Then, when 86% of the voting population voted for the advisory referendum I realized the legalization of marijuana may happen in my lifetime. As a criminal and administrative lawyer, I saw first-hand how terrible the medical cannabis laws were in Illinois even five or six years back. Back then, one guy decided on his own what medical conditions qualified and neither chronic cancer pain nor PTSD was on that list. It was not until some courageous Judges in the Chancery Division ruled otherwise that those conditions were added, but the application process has not gotten much easier.
A few weeks ago, Governor Pritzker signed various amendments to the legalization of marijuana law as outlined below. The mid-December amendments followed municipality focused debates. If you head over to Julie Tappendorf’s fabulous blog Municipal Minute, she has documented most of the important amendments and their effects on municipalities. A few of the most important amendments include follow-ups on expungement promises, tax-based changes, and clarifications on employee-and-employer conduct within law enforcement agencies and in the general work-place. One new portion of the amended bill requires courts to provide certificates of disposition to individuals granted an automatic expungement. These expungements should help those individuals who have been negatively affected by punishments because of cannabis-based offenses in efforts such as job searching opportunities and as well in their daily life as a whole. Enforcement on cannabis-based offenses was biased as well; African Americans have been more likely to see repercussions for its use. Thus the expungement portion of this bill is partially focused on amending the consequences that disparate impact of law enforcement had on many neighborhoods and individuals of color. In regards to state finances, municipalities and counties will now see earlier returns on sales taxes from cannabis dispensaries. The new resolution has pushed forward the date when collection on those taxes can begin from September 1st to July 1st.
The trailer bill also provides a wide range of cannabis-based acts that employers can prohibit and punish in public sector jobs such as the fire fighting and police departments. Possession, consumption, sales, purchase, and delivery of Cannabis on or off duty may result in disciplinary action within the employer’s discretion unless specifically outlined in a department’s collective bargaining agreement. In non-public workplaces, employers are provided certain discretion over their employees’ behavior with regards to cannabis. Random non-discriminatory drug tests on employees are allowed by the bill along with the right of employers to discipline employees for being high on the job.
It’s pretty clear that the legalization of marijuana will not have the immediate effect of reducing court cases involving marijuana – in fact, it seems like it might increase litigation. If you should find yourself on any end of that litigation, it is important that you hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights and help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. Whether you are an employer or employee, you are under arrest, or you need to take another look at your expungement rights, do not hesitate to contact LauraLaw – one of our experienced attorneys will be happy to help. In the meantime, enjoy the legalization of marijuana, be safe, don’t drive high, and stay tuned to this blog and local news outlets for the latest on the legalization of marijuana in Illinois.
Per Jaime Monks of the Chicago Tribune, Illinois governor J.B Prizker and a group of other democratic lawmakers in congress are looking to cap Insulin prices for Diabete patients at $100 out of pocket for a 30 day supply. An estimated 12% of the states population suffer from Diabetes and may have to pay up to $289 in out of pocket costs for their 30 day supply of Insulin according to Pritzker. The governor reasons that people struggling to make a living shouldn’t have to pay an extreme fee for something they literally need to have to live. It is ridiculous that you have to pay any fee in the first place for an essential medicine but that’s inescapable when Insulin is out on the free market where companies selling it are trying to profit. Either way, close to $300 and sometimes $400 a month is a particularly tough pill to swallow for struggling people or anyone frankly. As the article delves into, these prices force people to have to make hard choices between other basic needs and insulin that they need to survive. Buying a month supply of insulin every month of the year as it stands equals out to a range of $3600-4800 a year which is shameful to require of someone. According to Monks, in the years 2012 through 2016, the price per unit of Insulin increased from 13 cents to 25 cents. One of the sponsors for the bill, Democratic Senator Andy Manar lamented, “It’s out of whack today. When constituents call and say ‘I can’t afford to keep my daughter alive and own a home,’ or ‘I can’t afford to keep my son alive and buy groceries to put in his lunchbox,’ then something has to change,” Manar said. “That’s not the American way. The American way isn’t to kill people or to force a system that results in people dying in order to make money.” Ideally the American way wouldn’t be letting people die for profit, but whether that is or has been the american way in reality and action is highly debatable. Either way, Manar is right that financially exploiting diabetes patients is an unambiguously bad thing. Colorado became the first state to cap out of pocet costs for diabetes earlier in the year, and Illinois is trying to follow in their footsteps. Unsurprisingly Pharmacies and Insurance companies are against it and sent notices in opposition of the proposal. This includes “Pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, as well as BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, the Illinois Insurance Association and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.” There’s not really a mystery why they would oppose it, the fact is that it hurts their profit margins if they provide cheaper potentially life giving medicine to people who desperately need it. But it shouldn’t be controversial to weigh people’s health needs more than a company’s bottom line. Democratic representative Stephanie Kifowat bluntly put the matter into perspective. “It’s embarrassing that we have to have this discussion in our country about prices on pharmaceuticals that people need to live.” The only supporters so far have been democrats but bipartisan support on the proposal feels possible according to sponsors of the bill.
In the 2005 political thriller, The Constant Gardener, Ralph Fiennes stars as a British diplomat in Kenya whose entire life is thrown into disarray when his wife(Rachel Weisz) is murdered. It soon becomes clear that his wife was murdered for her work with Amnesty International in investigating the malpractices of a Pharmaceutical company in Kenya. Like a constant gardener, Ralph Fiennes character must continue to dig and dig more and more into the case, finding shocking conclusions along the way. The movie shows us the lengths one man and woman were willing to go to hold what seemed like an untouchable corporation accountable, while also showing the horrible lengths that corporation will go to avoid that accountability. The pharmaceutical company had developed a profitable drug to supposedly treat tuberculosis, but it becomes evident that the drug is killing people despite still being pushed by the company as a necessity even though they knew the poison they were selling.
Must we all now be constant gardeners? Though the movie takes place in Kenya and tackles other issues like racism and the horrible after effects of colonialism, it’s implications still hold crucial for today’s current political climate in the United States as our country wrestles with how exactly to hold giant pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma accountable for the Opioid crisis. Yesterday Purdue Pharma declared for bankruptcy in White Plains, New York soon after it reached tentative agreements with state and local governments suing the company over the toll it’s caused per Geoff Mulvihill of the Associated Press. The settlement could be worth around 12 billion, but the legal fights are not over, as many still want to continue to dig and dig into the truth breadth of the companies crimes and hold it more accountable than simply monetary value.
Purdue Pharma is owned by the extremely rich Sackler family, who produced and aggressively peddled the powerful pain-killer Oxycontin beginning in 1996. After that point, addiction and overdoses grew at an alarming rate but the death toll that Opioids such as Oxycontin have taken in the last few years are staggering. According to Mulvihill, from the years 2017-2018, 47,000 people lost their lives to Opioid related deaths. Like the Pharmaceutical company in the Constant Gardener, the drug was continually advocated by the Sackler family for more use despite the clear dangers it held. As Mulvihill explains “Purdue’s drugs are just a slice of the opioids prescribed, but critics assign a lot of the blame to the company because it developed both the drug and an aggressive marketing strategy. According to a lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts attorney general, the company pushed big sales of OxyContin from the start. Doing so meant persuading doctors who had been reluctant to prescribe such strong painkillers that this one was safe.” This is most evident in one court filing, which asserts that at one launch party Richard Sackler told a sales team “The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white.” The company managed to pay doctors to give more of their product, fund organizations that advocated for more of their product prescribed, and also became politically active to further help sales of the drug and peddle it as non addictive. The beginning of the crisis especially devastated rural areas like Appalachia but in the last few years urban areas are seeing rates climb alarmingly high as well. Looking at opioid related death statistics from the last decade starkly shows the increase in both types of areas. Per Drugabuse.gov, West Virginia has the highest age adjusted rate of Opioid related deaths. In 2017 there were 833 deaths in the state related to Opioids, a rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2010, the number was half that rate and nationally the number is 14.6 meaning West Virginias rate is nearly 3.5 times higher than the national average. Here in Illinois the rate is 17.2 and the number of deaths related to prescription opioids nearly doubled from the years 2014 through 2017.
Many who want to hold the Sackler’s accountable are wary of the settlement because Corporations tend to find ways to protect themselves from actually giving out the monetarily value settled on. It doesn’t help that there are assertions that the Sackler’s have transferred about one billion dollars to themselves from Swiss and other secret accounts, furthering the fear that the company will not be truly punished. Another issue for many is the question about why the Sackler family shouldn’t be held criminally accountable. As in the Constant Gardener, this company knew what it was selling and that it wasn’t non addictive. This can be argued was the company knowingly letting people die to sell their product. Holding Corporations criminally accountable has never been easy, in fact it’s been close to impossible. But this crisis has caused a political awakening in many outraged by the complete callousness of a company and family that already had so much but was willing to peddle a dangerous drug for even more. We don’t know the full lengths these companies will go to keep themselves from being truly accountable, but it seems evident they will likely go far. But like constant gardeners, we must continue to dig and dig and dig into the crimes committed by these corporations.
In a bizarre case, a 75-year-old licensed gun owner came out of his home to approach a group of teens that appeared at his house in the early morning Tuesday driving a Lexus that turned out to be stolen. He apparently believed the group was threatening as one of the teens started to move forward towards him despite his protests for them to leave. After that, he pulled out his revolver and fired at least three bullets towards the group which scattered them. Unfortunately, one of them was hit in the head area and would die. This teen was a 14-year-old boy. The other five teens scrambled into the Lexus and headed off with their wounded friend in tow. They actually made it to some officers who got the wounded boy to a hospital but after his death, four were somehow able to escape in the stolen Lexus and create a large chase that took a while. The four made it to North Halsted and West Randolph before running out of gas. All four were charged with first degree murder due to their friend dying in the commission of a felony. This is what is called Felony murder, and it allows the state to charge someone for a person’s death even if they don’t directly kill them. Alice Yin, Dan Moran, Annie Sweeney, and Jason Meisner of the Chicago Tribune have the full story.
Plenty of controversy surrounds the case which isn’t surprising since it involves guns, the death of a kid, and the application of a controversial law towards juveniles. All four are being charged as adults while only one is actually 18 years old. This is a complicated, tragic case. No matter what you think, a young boy is dead and that is awful. A seventy-five year old man who seemed like he was in no way being malicious shot his gun in self-defense and a young kid making a terrible mistake died. That has got to be hard on him and it seems likely he’ll be dealing with legal and civil questions for a bit. The bar for this kind of use of deadly force of self-defense is when you find yourself faced with an imminent and importantly deadly threat where you believe there is a reasonably deadly threat to your person or another. It’s a higher bar than regular self-defense against non deadly force which just outlines “unlawful” force as the condition for which one can use regular force against. It should be noted that a Bowie knife was found at the scene of the crime so that could be an indication that there was a reason to believe the man firing had a justifiable fear for his own life. This comes along with the fact that this whole debacle appeared to be an attempted home invasion in a stolen car. But we need more information to be released to the public to be certain. It is highly recommended you read the article as it covers many of the angles relatively quickly.
I wanted to touch on the aspect of the other teens being charged for their accomplices death. This is one of those few issues that can be expanded upon without needing significantly more public information because it mainly comes down to principle. Some cases are so horrible that a juvenile needs to be charged as an adult like this, but in this context it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It feels like there is a general anger and hole that people want to fill in place of this fourteen year old’s death with some kind of justice. Certainly justice should be had, but is this actually justice? When thinking of crimes so bad that children should be charged as adults, my first go to would be looking at intent. Did these teens in any way when taking the stolen car that night towards the targeted home have any intention whatsoever of harming their friend? No. Did they have any intention of harming the man in the house? We don’t know, more facts will have to come out. So we don’t know if that had any intent whatsoever to harm anyone that night. Obviously people can point to the felony murder statute as why these kids can be tried as adults but just because you clear the bar for something doesn’t mean you should proceed with it. Can does not equal should, and just because the DA can get this charge to stick doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a gross injustice to see it happen. When thinking over whether the justice system should be used for rehabilitation, punishment, or both, it seems society has taken a step forward in the last few years to saying “both.” Charging these children with first degree murder won’t provide any type of rehabilitation, just punishment. And remember, these likely aren’t some sadists committing a thrill kill but rather stupid kids doing something stupidly dangerous. This feels like something where the perpetrators can be genuinely helped and led toward a better life. It won’t happen with a first degree murder charge. Plus, is ideally what felony murder is for? There are better arguments to be made that the eighteen year old should be charged as an adult but again, is there really a point to that? Five young lives hang in the balance because of the charges pending against them. It doesn’t have to be like this.
– Aqua Illinois provides water to a number of communities including the 7,000 strong Village of University Park but on Friday they were sued because of lead contamination in that water. The lead isn’t news to them as Aqua actually let the state know in May that after they switched from groundwater to the Kankakee river, their testing detected high levels of lead. They’ve been trying to provide bottles of water to impacted residents, however it seems the state has grown tired of their inaction. Illinois attorney general Kwame Raoul and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed the lawsuit seeking an injunction to require Aqua Illinois to fix the situation. The suit explains that the switch to the Kankakee river also caused the addition of a chemical that removed a protective layer in people’s plumbing, resulting in increased lead. Aqua Illinois says this issue only affects homes serviced before 1990, although who knows how that reassurance went over with annoyed residents. Although it’s not unique for a giant water corporation to supply a communities’ water, one has to wonder if these situations stem partly from that fact.
Although this blog usually covers Illinois legal issues, events such as the mass shootings that happened over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio need to be covered because they affect all of us. I won’t give the names of the perpetrators, not because I want to protect their identities but because I don’t want to give them the spotlight in the media these monsters so covet. The spotlight should be on the victims, and the issues that ultimately led to 31 human beings dying over the weekend in these monstrous mass shootings. So, first of all rest in peace to all that lost their lives and condolences to all the friends and family members affected.
One issue that will certainly be brought up over and over again is gun control, and how monsters like the ones who committed these murders had access to firearms. This is an important topic and I do believe it matters to this discussion, but I’d like to focus on what I think is the more important issue here: The rise of far-right extremism that has taken a number of lives in the past few years. The murderer in El Paso is clearly linked to white supremacist organizations that believed Hispanics were “invading” Texas. Last year, this blog actually covered a legal issue related to far right terrorism when we covered a Montana resident winning a large lawsuit against Neo-Nazis because they were viciously harassing her. But obviously there’s been much more violent examples of this extremism like the events this weekend, and the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre earlier this year. We need to ask questions like, “why is this violent ideology on the rise, and how do we stop it from taking other people’s lives?” The ADL, which is an organization dedicated to fighting hate, has been covering the rise in far right extremist related violence. Here’s a sobering quote from their website on extremist violence in 2018:
“In 2018, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S., a sharp increase from the 37 extremist-related murders documented in 2017, though still lower than the totals for 2015 (70) and 2016 (72). The 50 deaths make 2018 the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.The extremist-related murders in 2018 were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists. Every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, although one had recently switched to supporting Islamist extremism. White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case.”
That is just in 2018, 2019 has seen a whole new string of mass murders committed by far right terrorists. What makes things frustrating is that so much focus in the country has been put on Islamic extremism that for years it has all but ignored the disturbing rise in far right extremism committed by white Americans in our very backyards. Those Far right extremists have caused many more fatalities in America than Islamic extremists. Far right terrorist violence has always been in this country, from the KKK in the late 19th and early 20th century to the Neo-Nazis of today chanting and murdering protesters at Charlottesville. I remember seeing those skinheads chant “Jews will not replace us” and having to hear constant excuses about how it wasn’t that serious and that they were just a small fringe of people. Although I am a privileged white middle class member of society who hasn’t had to deal with oppression that a number of others have, the issue did get personal for me like I imagine it has for so many others who are more directly affected. I am of Jewish descent through my mom and her family and I take pride in that heritage. My grandfather-the bravest man I’ve ever known- was a Hungarian Jew who got caught up in the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazis. He had to spend multiple years in a concentration camp, not knowing if he had any family-members left. It’s a miracle he was able to make it out alive and start a new life filled with happiness and joy but the pain was always there, I’m sure. To see skinheads chanting stuff like “Jews will not replace us” just makes my blood boil. So many families nearly don’t exist because of Nazism and yet these people are celebrating it? And then a heroic protester named Heather Heyer- who was with a group of counter protesters standing against the Nazis- was murdered by one of the skinheads. It’s hard to fathom that in 2019, a woman lost her life fighting Nazis.
So, although far right extremist violence has always been part of America, it is growing as the people who commit these crimes are feeling emboldened by the amount of others who share their same hateful views. The internet has not helped in the slightest. Popular websites like YouTube and Reddit have helped radicalize young, angry, and usually isolated teenagers by luring them into watching videos from people like Ben Shapiro that help embed those hateful views inside them and then certain subreddits on the popular social media site Reddit help give them an echo chamber where they can share their hatred with like-minded people. YouTube has vowed to try and do a better job at stopping extremist content from being available to the public but their algorithm is also inherently designed to try and get as many people as possible to click on the most amount of videos possible because it helps their bottom line. Unfortunately videos from people like Shapiro have gotten more popular by the day and are frequently recommended to viewers in the “recommended videos” section of YouTube that allows more and more young adults to fall into the rabbit hole of hatred. There are also undoubtedly politicians who stoke fears of people of color and other oppressed minorities as well, and in the last decade these politicians have become more and more mainstream.
This isn’t just an American problem to be sure, although it is certainly a growing issue here. Worldwide, the rise of Fascism, “strongmen” leaders, and far right extremism has increased. We see evidence of this in places like Brazil where the far right politician Jair Bolsonaro won a recent election. In the Philippines the far right politician Rodrigo Duterte has been terrorizing his country for years as its leader. Putin has ruled Russia with an iron fist. Hungarian and Polish politicians have become further and further right. In Italy, Mussolini’s granddaughter is a member of parliament, and she isn’t considered fringe there either. She’s a mainstream politician and not shockingly, her political views line up pretty similarly with her grandfathers. In Europe, there is a growing amount of far right related terrorist violence as well and it’s making authorities nervous as they devote more and more of their resources to trying to stop it. And like in America, many far right politicians in Europe are helping make these kind of beliefs that lead to this violence more mainstream.
Clearly, there are no easy answers to trying to stop the rise of this violence and ideology. I would say that some solutions could include ousting politicians who either openly or placidly support this ideology or don’t do enough to condemn this violence. Stop giving this ideology mainstream access. News stations aren’t blameless, as they tend to stoke fear and divisiveness because it generates the most number of views. Studies have shown how news depictions of immigrants and people of color, especially when it relates to violence, are discriminatory and prove double standards in how certain groups are depicted. I feel early education about this stuff is also crucial, as young adults are some of the most susceptible to falling into this ideology. Early on in school, teachers should be emphasizing the evil of these views, the danger and violence these views can cause, and education on why hatred and violence in illogical and evil. YouTube also needs to be held more accountable for its content and reddit needs to eliminate the subreddits that have openly spewed hatred. Just recently they “quarantined” a sub dedicated to Donald Trump because of all the racist and anti-Semitic posts there. It should just be banned instead of waffling on a decision over what to do about it. It would also help if we could tear down monuments to white supremacy like all the Confederate statues littered throughout the south. These statues influence people coming across them who don’t know much about the civil war, and imbibe them with an idea that the Confederacy was a noble cause. The police need to do a much better job focusing on stopping this violence. Lastly, we need to stop calling these hateful mass murderers lone wolves or act like their exceptions. They should be called terrorists and their ideology should be shamed into oblivion