Saturday, December 31, 2016

EXPERT DISCREDITS EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY IN MURDER TRIAL

In March, 2016, we blogged on an Illinois Supreme Court case that opened the door to allowing experts to dispute the reliability of eyewitness testimony. (See How Reliable is Eyewitness Testimony?). Because of that case, People v Lerma, such an expert was permitted to testify in a Palatine murder trial, which resulted in a verdict of not guilty.

According to the Chicago Tribune (High court opens door to experts who say eyewitness IDs are unreliable), defendant Marco Lopez was accused of the 2014 shooting deaths of a man and his son. The state’s case relied primarily on eyewitness testimony. The state did not have a murder weapon, DNA or other physical evidence against the defendant.

One witness said they saw the defendant through a glass door about 10 feet away after midnight. Expert Geoffrey Loftus testified that conditions such as lighting, the length of an event and pre-event information could affect an eyewitness in recognizing someone they know. (Loftus conducts experiments on memory and sensory perception at University of Washington-Seattle). As a result, the jury acquitted the defendant.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced crminal law attorney immediately. As with most crimes, the state has the burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all the elements of the offense. An attorney can review your case and determine which experts, if any, could help your defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

A FORMER SCHOOL CAN STILL BE A SCHOOL UNDER ILLINOIS DRUG LAW

(Update: Effective January 1, 2018, the Illinois legislature reduced the distance required from the school to 500 feet. The amended law further requires that at the time of the violation, persons under 18 are present or reasonably expected to be present or that school is in session.)

Under Illinois law, the penalties are increased if you knowingly manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver a controlled substance such as heroin or cocaine when you are within 1,000 feet of a school building. For example, a Class 1 felony can be upgraded to a Class X.

These penalties can be raised even if school is not in session, and no children are present. Now, a new Illinois Appellate case has held that a school is still a school under this law even if the building no longer operates as a school.

In People v Tolliver, the defendant argued that his drug charges should not be upgraded because the Chicago Public Schools had closed the school in question. The Court disagreed, stating that the building still had the identity of a school and would still draw neighborhood children to its premises.

The court considered the following factors: (i) ownership and maintenance by Chicago Public Schools, (ii) purpose, (iii) design, (iv) site characteristics (including school grounds), and (iv) its recognized place within the surrounding neighborhood. After weighing these factors, the court upheld defendant's conviction of the aggravated offense.

If you are charged with a drug-related crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone, especially not the police. Trying to talk your way out of a situation might end up giving the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search that uncovered the drugs legal? If not, an attorney may have grounds to challenge your arrest and hopefully get the evidence against you suppressed.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See our related school law blog: North Shore School Law. (Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)