Saturday, January 7, 2012

“Letter of the law” can result in unpopular, yet justified, court actions

I can’t feel too much compassion for the woman who got grilled severely during an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court to determine whether her background should have made her unfit to serve on the jury that found William Cellini guilty.

I also don’t get too upset over the plight of a family who is upset that the man facing criminal charges for an auto accident that killed one of their members is a fugitive because he skipped out on his bail.

BECAUSE WHAT IS happening in both of these cases (the latter of which is pending in Cook County circuit court) is that officials complied with the “letter of the law,” which means that regulations were strictly followed.

The people who have a problem with the way these cases are going are the ones who want to let their emotions and personal prejudices get involved in the rulings of the courts.

Anytime that happens, we develop real problems. The ones that are occurring now are miniscule, by comparison. We ought to be glad that things are turning out the way they are.

In the case of Candy Chiles, the juror in the Cellini trial who didn’t tell prosecutors and defense attorneys of her prior convictions on felony charges got all emotional and tried to claim that defense attorney Dan Webb was harassing her. She ultimately stormed out of a courtroom, and I’m sure she thinks she’s the one who’s being picked upon.

YET THE REPORTS coming from her court hearing on Friday all noted that she justified not telling of her prior guilty pleas to drug possession and DUI charges because she thinks that is in her past.

“It’s in my past. I never mention it at all, that foolishness in my life,” she said.

Personally, I hope that is true – the part about her bad behavior being in her past. I do believe that some people (if not all) can get their acts together and make something positive out of their lives.

But I don’t know of anyone who could get away with deciding for themselves what kinds of information they could provide to the courts when it is specifically asked of them.

ANYBODY ELSE WHO tried to take such a haughty attitude would quickly find themselves being found in contempt of court. The only people who are defending her now are the ones who are so eager to have Cellini found guilty of his criminal charges that they’re willing to overlook any potential flaws in the prosecution’s case.

Which is why Webb gave her “the third degree” on Friday. He’s trying to undermine her credibility to the point where people might feel the need to overturn the Cellini conviction.

I’m not convinced that outcome is going to happen. But I do want a Cellini conviction that is beyond reproach. Letting tainted evidence come into play is more reprehensible than anything that Cellini might have done.

Then, there’s the case of Saul Chavez, who was arrested following an auto accident that left a pedestrian dead. When he made his initial court appearance, a judge set bond at $250,000. And while there are some people for whom such a bond would be a prohibitive sum, Chavez’ family managed to come up with the cash.

OR MORE SPECIFICALLY, the 10 percent that meant he needed to produce $25,000 in order to be released while his trial is pending.

However, as sometimes occurs, Chavez has not shown up in court anymore. He seems to have skipped town. In fact, there is evidence that he has returned to Mexico (he was a Mexican citizen).

Which means if he ever does get caught, he’s going to face a serious heap of trouble – with additional charges that likely will be more severe than what he now faces. Any chance he ever had to have a life in this country are now long-gone.

But there are those people, including the family of the man who was killed, who want to turn this into a partisan battle. Because some counties automatically notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of all their non-U.S. citizen inmates.

BUT COOK COUNTY last year made a big production out of saying it would no longer provide such notification.

The end result is that the family is now claiming (in very vulgar language) that had the county board not taken such an issue related to immigration, Chavez would still be in jail.

Even though he had managed to post bail!

As much as he – or some other people – might not like it, until one is convicted of something, they have a right to have the option of posting bail if charges are pending against them. Either that, or we had better prepare for a massive expansion of the county jail complex to accommodate all the people who come into contact with the judicial system.

IF THIS PARTICULAR case had been worthy of locking Chavez up in the county jail while the criminal case was pending, a judge would have denied bond outright.

So while this case puts me in the position of siding with someone who skipped bail (and, possibly, the country), I hate the idea that someone thinks that this person needs to be locked up before any “guilt” is proven. And many of the people willing to side with that family seem to be using the case to express their own ideological hang-ups related to immigration reform.

If anything, I find that idea to be more reprehensible than Chiles’ belief that she can pick-and-choose what she tells about herself to the courts.


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