Federal District Court Overturns Brendan Dassey’s 2007 Conviction for Rape and Murder
The Eastern District Court of Michigan this past week released a decision to throw out the confession of Brendan Dassey, a Wisconsin man who has been serving a life sentence in prison after a conviction for raping and murdering a woman in 2005, according to The New York Times. Dassey was the 16-year-old learning disabled nephew of Steven Avery, who the court also sentenced to life for raping and murdering Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer. The court found that the detectives who interrogated Dassey pressured and led him to give an involuntary confession that he assisted in Avery’s rape and murder of Halbach. Without the confession, the state can either appeal the federal district court magistrate’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, retry Dassey, or release him from prison.
Dassey Investigators Used False Promises to Coerce a Confession
Civil rights groups have already criticized Dassey’s conviction; he was even the subject of a Netflix original series called Making a Murderer. NBC 5 Chicago reports that the federal court magistrate found that Dassey’s investigators made false promises, and gave him the impression that he was not a suspect in the investigation and didn’t have to worry about criminal charges. Because of these misleading tactics and the fact that Dassey had a low IQ and no experience dealing with the police, the magistrate found that Dassey made an involuntary confession.
Defendants May Suppress Involuntary Confessions
Many criminal defendants make plea deals wherein they agree to accept a particular conviction in exchange for leniency from prosecutors. But these plea deals are different from an actual confession. A confession is when a criminal defendant to police that they committed criminal acts. Such a confession makes it very difficult for a defendant to avoid a conviction at trial.
A defense lawyer may, however, exclude a confession from the trial if they can demonstrate that the defendant did not give the confession freely. The Illinois Code provides that the defense may move to suppress an involuntary confession. In determining whether or not the confession was voluntary, the court will examine the totality of the circumstances (every relevant fact), including both the nature of the interrogation and the character of the defendant. This can include how much pressure the interrogators used, the setting of the interrogation, its duration, and the age, experience and mental abilities of the defendant.
Age, Intellect and Interrogation Make Dassey Confession Involuntary
In Brendan Dassey’s case, the court had plenty of reasons to find that the confession was not voluntary. Dassey’s first interrogation did not result in any kind of confession. The investigators had to interrogate Dassey four times before he confessed. The investigators promised Dassey they were on his side and that he didn’t have to worry as long as he told the truth. Dassey was still a teenager at the time, had never dealt with the police, and had a borderline intelligence score. Many of the questions interrogators asked several times, and hinted strongly at what they wanted Dassey to say, even after he had changed his testimony several times. In the end, the picture emerges of investigators who manipulated a vulnerable person into telling them what they wanted to hear. Unfortunately, Dassey has already served almost a decade in prison. If he is released, it’s likely he will sue the state to compensate him for all he has suffered.
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If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today to get the justice you deserve.
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Officers Relieved of Police Powers after Shooting
The Chicago police officer who shot an unarmed teenager in the back last week was wearing a body camera, but the camera was not recording at the time of the police shooting, The Chicago Tribune reports. The Chicago Police Department is investigating why the camera did not capture the event, says department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi. Initial investigations into the shooting indicated that the three officers involved violated department policy; the officers have had to turn in their badges.
Police Officer Shot Fleeing O’Neal in Back
The shooting occurred last Thursday, July 28th, after 18-year-old Paul O’Neal crashed a car into two police vehicles in Chicago’s South Side. The owner of the car, a Jaguar, reported the vehicle stolen. Two of the officers in the vehicles opened fire at O’Neal as he was still in the Jaguar. After crashing the car, O’Neal attempted to flee the scene on foot. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Jaguar sideswiped the first police vehicle and hit the second one while it was parked. A third officer who was in one of the police vehicles chased O’Neal on foot and shot him to death. The Cook County medical examiner stated that bullets struck O’Neal in the back. Footage from vehicle-mounted cameras captured parts of the incident, including police shooting at O’Neal while he was in the Jaguar. But the body camera of the officer who killed O’Neal did not capture the fatal shooting.
More Chicago Cops Wearing Body Cameras
The Chicago Police department began to use police body cameras and vehicle dashboard cameras in 2015. In response to recent high-profile police shootings and increased legal scrutiny, the department has increased its use of the cameras in recent months. Police officers now use the cameras in seven different police districts in Chicago, primarily on the South Side. Department policy requires police to release camera footage of police shootings within 60 days, with the option for the police department to seek a 30-day extension.
Chicago Police Department May Be Liable for Wrongful Death
In 2015, the Chicago Police Department revised its use-of-force policy to prohibit firing at a moving vehicle. The department’s Independent Police Review Authority recently released recommendations that would narrow the situations in which police can use force, especially against fleeing suspects. Illinois state law allows police to fire at a fleeing suspect if they believe that the suspect has committed a forcible felony. The recommendation would change the policy to prohibit firing at a fleeing felon unless the officer has reason to believe that the suspect poses an immediate danger to the officer or someone else.
In a case like the O’Neal shooting, police may have already suspect O’Neal of stealing the Jaguar. If the theft involved the use of force (for example, if O’Neal had committed an armed carjacking), this suspicion may have allowed the officers to fire at O’Neal as he fled the scene under current state law. O’Neal also crashed the Jaguar into the police vehicles. If officers suspected that O’Neal intentionally crashed the car in an attempt to injure the officers, this may also have qualified as a forcible felony. If the cash was an accident, on the other hand, it would likely not count as a forcible felony. If the officers shot O’Neal in violation of state law, the officers and the department may be liable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Chicago Criminal Rights Law
If you or someone you know has been the victim of police brutality, you need expert legal help immediately. Contact an experienced civil rights lawyer at Barney & Hourihane today to get the justice you deserve.
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Chicago Man Arrested on Basis of Eyewitness Identification
A Chicago man was arrested today for a shooting in Evanston, according to the Chicago Tribune.The shooting took place in the parking lot of an IHOP this past Sunday morning. The suspect, Cornelius Jones, is accused of shooting a Beach Park man multiple times. Jones was identified from a lineup by the shooting victim. Police identified Jones as a suspect based on distinctive tattoos on his forehead.
When the shooting occurred, police had an active narcotics investigation involving Jones. Police executed a search warrant at his apartment on Wednesday night. Jones was taken into custody. During the search, they discovered a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun with ammunition. They also discovered a small amount of marijuana. Jones is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and unlawful possession of cannabis. Bail was set at $250,000, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
When Lineup Evidence is Admissible at Trial
Jones was identified using a lineup. Suspect lineups are subject to strict rules under Illinois law. The Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure sets out rules for several different types of lineups:
The person administering the lineup is not supposed to know who the suspect is and who the filler are. Otherwise, they might influence the process to bias the witness. If there are multiple eyewitnesses, they are not allowed to confer with one another. When identifying a member of the lineup, no two eyewitnesses should be present at the same time. Otherwise, they might influence one another’s judgment. The fillers must not be substantially different in appearance from the suspect. Otherwise, the witness might pick the suspect simply because he or she is the only person in the lineup that resembles the perpetrator.
What to do when Lineup Evidence is Unfair
Violating any of these rules could prevent the use of the lineup procedure as evidence. If some violation occurred, a defendant’s attorney may file a motion to suppress the identification. If the judge decides that the way the lineup was conducted was too suggestive and that it may have produced an unreliable identification, the results of the identification can be kept away from the jury. If the results of the identification are allowed into evidence, the attorney can attempt to convince the jury that they should disregard the results, since they were produced by a biased process.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been arrested, you need immediate legal help. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today, and defend your rights.
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When thinking about criminal prosecutions, most residents are familiar with police investigation and trial. But what about after a conviction? There are many post-trial issues to understand after a person is found guilty of a crime.
Sentencing in Illinois
If a defendant is convicted during a trial, or enters a guilty plea, the judge must determine the proper punishment, called a sentence. In many cases, especially for more serious crimes, there is a separate proceeding after the trial to determine the sentence. During this sentencing proceeding, the judge may weigh additional evidence to consider when sentencing. During this process, the judge receives a pre-sentence report with information about the defendant, including information about the family, background, and employment history.
State officials develop, implements, and administers a range of recommended sentences for use by judges in criminal proceedings. Although the recommended sentences are discretionary (i.e., judges are not required to follow the guidelines when determining the length and type of penalty for a crime), there are sometimes specific rules that judges abide by in making their decision. For some crimes, the law may require a judge to impose a prison term no less than a predefined amount of time (called a minimum sentence). Minimum sentences differ according to the crime.
Appeals in Illinois
If a defendant loses his or her criminal trial, the defendant may appeal the decision to a higher court.
Throughout the appeals process, defendants have certain rights. It is essential that individuals facing criminal charges have adequate legal representation.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, it is critical to contact a skilled Chicago defense lawyer. Understanding your rights may be the difference between freedom and criminal prosecution. The experienced attorneys at Barney & Hourihane are dedicated to representing Illinois residents in all types of criminal matters, including appeals. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
Society places a tremendous amount of trust in prosecutors. They are vested with the power to pursue criminal charges and keep the average citizen safe. However, sometimes prosecutors step outside the bounds of what they are ethically allowed to do, confusing juries or avoiding legal arguments to obtain a conviction at all costs.
However, if a prosecutor convinces a jury to convict a defendant on these grounds, a court reviewing the case will find that obvious prosecutorial misconduct exists, and the conviction can be vacated, as recently illustrated in the Second District Court of Appeals case People v. Mpulamasaka.
People v. Mpulamasaka and Prosecutorial Misconduct
In Mpulamaska, the defendant was placed on trial based on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman outside of a Highland Park restaurant in 2011. The trial commenced in 2013, with the defendant claiming that the sexual encounter between he and the woman was consensual.
The issue of prosecutorial misconduct arose in the closing arguments, at which time the state’s attorney used several tactics to invoke a purely emotional response from the jury, including sitting in the witness stand and talking about the courage of the alleged victim while questioning the defendant’s versions of events. The appellate court called this conduct by the state’s attorney “troubling.”
The court held that while there is no clear law or ethical rule that bars a prosecutor from sitting in the witness stand during closing arguments (and indeed prosecutors have quite a bit of leeway in making these arguments), this act amounted to vouching for the woman’s story, which is barred by ethical rules.
The court of appeals believed that the conduct of the prosecutor in Mpulamaska was so prejudicial that the defendant would not have been convicted of aggravated sexual assault but for the actions of the state’s attorney. Accordingly, the verdict of the jury was reversed.
Types of Prosecutorial Misconduct to Watch Out For
While Illinois courts have never dealt with a case quite like Mpulamaska before, there are several other things prosecutors may do that are always considered misconduct including:
· Arguments or other statements intended to confuse the jury or draw attention to irrelevant issues
· Arguments meant to appeal more to emotion to logic, including using terms such as “predator” to describe a defendant
· Misstating expert testimony or improperly questioning the reputation of an expert
· Accusing counsel for the defendant of trying to confuse the jury or otherwise acting unethically without any grounds for making such claims
Any of this conduct is grounds for seeking appeal of a conviction.
Chicago Criminal Appeals Attorney
Prosecutors are required to prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction, but there are limits on how far they can go to prove a case. If the statements by made by a prosecutor in the course of a trial amount to misconduct, it may be grounds to have your conviction vacated. For more information about appealing a criminal conviction in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today to speak with an attorney about your case.