Texting While Driving will become a moving violation next month

From the Daily Herald:

Illinois’ law banning driving and texting is now five years old, and drivers caught violating it will face a stiffer penalty as of July 1.

Scofflaws who text, talk or use any hand-held devices behind the wheel will receive a ticket for a moving violation. Three moving violations in a 12-month period will lead to a license suspension…

To clarify, it’s also illegal to text or talk while holding a device at a stop sign, at a red light or while sitting in traffic.

What if I just take a second to do something with my phone?

Not OK, said Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley.

“In the amount of time it takes to simply look down and check a text — if your car is traveling 40 mph — it has already traveled half the length of a football field,” said Rowley, Aurora’s public information officer. That means “if a child runs out on the road, there’s no time to touch your brakes.”

Drivers can pull over on the shoulder, put the car in park and use their devices. Exceptions to the law include reporting an emergency, and if normal traffic is stopped because of an obstruction such as an accident or train — and the car is in park.

Read the entire story here at:  https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20190617/starting-july-1-no-more-free-passes-for-texting-or-holding-your-phone-at-all-and-driving

Another Illinois State Rep was arrested for DUI, second one this week

From WAND-17:

An Illinois lawmaker is facing a DUI charge in Sangamon County.

Court records show State Rep. Steven E. Reick (R-Woodstock) is charged with driving under the influence. He was arrested after midnight Thursday.

Specific details about what led to his arrest weren’t available in the docket.

He is the second Illinois State Representative to be arrested for a DUI this week.  See my last post for information on that arrest.

I wonder if this will help with that bill pending down in Springfield which would permit DUIs to be expunged?

State Representative from Chicago arrested for DUI

From the Chicago Tribune:

A freshman state representative from Chicago is facing a driving under the influence charge in Springfield after he was allegedly found asleep behind the wheel of his Land Rover on March 29 about a block from the Illinois Capitol.

Rep. Kambium Buckner, a South Side Democrat, pleaded not guilty to the charge Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

Springfield police were called to assist Illinois secretary of state police in the early morning hours of March 29 after Buckner was found sitting in his vehicle through several cycles of a traffic light, and didn’t drive on even after the secretary of state police officer honked his horn, according to a report filed with the Sangamon County sheriff’s office.

Buckner, 33, failed a field sobriety test and refused a blood alcohol test at the scene and after being brought to the county jail, according to the report. He was released on bond shortly after being booked into the jail.

Read the entire story here:  https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-met-state-rep-kambium-buckner-dui-20190501-story.html

Illinois makes dropping a cigarette butt on the ground a misdemeanor

I am not a fan of littering, and I really hate when I stumble across a pile of butts and ashes in a parking lot, but this is just ridiculous.

Come next January 1, the Illinois Litter Control Act will include cigarettes in the types of material that, if improperly disposed, would constitute littering.  Littering is a class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500).  So you can become a criminal if you toss a butt to the curb.  Yikes!  Here is the text of the amended statute.

State’s financial woes is good news for convicts

Illinois’ financial crisis is turning into a boon for convicted criminals.

First, both the Illinois House and Senate have approved a new Good Time credit bill, which will allow the Illinois Department of Corrections to release non-violent prisoners earlier.  The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor.

Next, Governor Quinn is moving ahead with plans to close several prisons, juvenile justice centers and transitional centers, including the Tamms supermax prison and the Dwight Correctional Center.  This will supposedly save the State $62 million.

Of course, prison closure will only exacerbate prison overcrowding, which will likely lead to more early releases.

As I said, its a great time to be a convict.

New Rule: Illinois Jurors will be allowed to ask witnesses questions in Civil Cases

Effective July 1, 2012, jurors in Illinois civil cases will be allowed to ask questions of witnesses, under new Supreme Court Rule 243.

The Rules states:

243. Written Juror Questions Directed to Witnesses

(a) Questions Permitted. The court may permit jurors in civil cases to submit to the court written questions directed to witnesses.

(b) Procedure. Following the conclusion of questioning by counsel, the court shall determine whether the jury will be afforded the opportunity to question the witness. Regarding each witness for whom the court determines questions by jurors are appropriate, the jury shall be asked to submit any question they have for the witness in writing. No discussion regarding the questions shall be allowed between jurors at this time; neither shall jurors be limited to posing a single question nor shall jurors be required to submit questions. The bailiff will then collect any questions and present the questions to the judge. Questions will be marked as exhibits and made a part of the record.

(c) Objections. Out of the presence of the jury, the judge will read the question to all counsel, allow counsel to see the written question, and give counsel an opportunity to object to the question. If any objections are made, the court will rule upon them at that time and the question will be either admitted, modified, or excluded accordingly.

(d) Questioning of the Witness. The court shall instruct the witness to answer only the question presented, and not exceed the scope of the question. The court will ask each question; the court will then provide all counsel with an opportunity to ask follow-up questions limited to the scope of the new testimony.

(e) Admonishment to Jurors. At times before or during the trial that it deems appropriate, the court shall advise the jurors that they shall not concern themselves with the reason for the exclusion or modification of any question submitted and that such measures are taken by the court in accordance with the rules of evidence that govern the case.

Adopted April 3, 2012, eff. July 1, 2012.

I think this is an important rule change and can only help to assist jurors in their role as fact finders, by allowing them to get additional answers to questions that may not have been asked by the attorneys, either by inadvertence or intentionally.

In talking with jurors after a trial, I often find that they have many good questions that went unanswered.  Heck, often the attorneys kick themselves because they forgot to ask something.  When you add twelve more people into the mix, someone is bound to come up with a good question that could be helpful in resolving the case.

Note that the jurors’ questions are subject to objections, just like any question posed by an attorney.  This is because many questions that a layperson would ask would not be allowed at trial.  Such questions could lead to the jury basing their decision on facts or sentiments that are not directly relevant to the case.  It was wise to require that these objections be heard outside the presence of the jury.  That way, an attorney can feel free to make his or her objections without worrying that his or her client will be penalized for “blocking” someone’s question.

I am told that juries have been allowed to ask questions in other jurisdictions, generally with good results.  I am curious to see how this works out in Illinois.

Any thoughts?

One of the reasons why we keep convicting the innocent

Over the past 15 years or so, those of us in Illinois have hardly seen a month go by where an accused killer hasn’t had their case set aside because of serious doubts raised about his or her case, if not proof of their actual innocence.

Thanks in part to the hard work of John Conroy of the Chicago Reader, exposing the police brutality of Area One Detectives lead by Lt. Jon Burge, Professor David Protess and the Medill School Innocence Project, various newspaper columnists, and the development of DNA testing, we have come to learn that many people were sentenced to death or life imprisonment based on faulty confessions.

This ultimately led to Governor George Ryan imposing a moratorium on the death penalty, and its eventual abolishment last year under Governor Patrick Quinn.

So, I think that any right thinking person would expect, in fact, demand, reform of the system that has lead to so many false arrests and convictions.  One obvious element to focus on would be how to avoid getting “confessions” from the innocent.

Instead, I opened up my newspaper today to see this:

2 tied to false confessions now instruct cops on investigating

By Dan Hinkel, Chicago Tribune reporterApril 6, 2012

Hoping to prevent bungled police probes and prosecutions like those that have plagued Illinois’ legal system, state lawmakers mandated the creation of a class to certify officers as “lead homicide investigators.”

But one of the teams being paid tax dollars to teach the five-day course consists of two law-enforcement figures who were involved in — and sometimes central to — a spate of collapsing prosecutions in Lake County, including high-profile cases that disintegrated in the face of contradictory evidence.

In December, appeals judges called out former Waukegan Detective Lou Tessmann by name as they ordered the release of Juan Rivera after almost 20 years in prison. The judges questioned Tessmann’s interrogation tactics and the believability of the confession he took from Rivera in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.

The other trainer, Jeffrey Pavletic, has spent 15 years as second-in-command in the Lake County state’s attorney’s office, an agency battered by recent legal losses in cases where defendants were pursued for years after DNA seemed to suggest their innocence.

Pavletic prosecuted Rivera and handled pretrial hearings for Jerry Hobbs, who was released in 2010 after evidence pointed toward another man in the stabbing deaths of two Zion girls. Like Rivera, Hobbs had confessed after a grueling interrogation that prosecutors defended as legally sound.

Pavletic also tried another man, James Edwards, whose guilt has been called into question by DNA.

The legal and financial fallout from these cases promises to trouble Lake County for years, and critics of its judicial system said they were disturbed to learn that officers around the state are being taught by two of the county’s key law enforcement figures — at taxpayer expense.

Proper police training could help stem the flow of false confessions and wrongful convictions revealed in the last 25 years by advancing DNA technology, experts said. Steven Drizin, legal director of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, said he fears Lake County’s approach to investigations, interrogations and prosecutions could be transmitted “like a virus.”

“Are they spreading the wrong lessons throughout the state?” he asked.

Legislators who pushed the certification law, which took effect Jan. 1, questioned the vetting process for instructors. Sen. William Haine, the former Madison County state’s attorney, was “shocked” when told by the Tribune that the men taught the course in a nearby county in December.

“I’m at a loss as to why they went up to Chicago to get (instructors with) more baggage than a Greyhound bus when they have diamonds right there in their own backyard,” he said.

Read the whole article here.

I don’t know these two attorneys, and for all I know, they are fine and ethical lawyers.  But how hard would it be to find people to teach this training who weren’t involved in false confession cases and have demonstrated a passion, not just for convictions, but for truth, justice and fairness, no matter where the evidence leads them?