Courts, justice—it’s not like on TV

Do you watch  crime shows on television?  I love the Law & Order franchise, and  one of my favorites is The Good Wife.  But those are dramas. This is not how justice really works. It takes forever….

Years ago, I was asked to be a community advocate addressing crimes in my police beat. I live in a high density (many  apartment buildings )  mixed income (they used to call us the ghetto) neighborhood in Chicago.

We’d go to court because  people were arrested for  selling drugs, mugging old ladies,  vandalism, public urination, and sometimes shooting  someone.

Problem was,  they’d bond out of police custody & not show up.  You think you have to show up?  You don’t.  If they catch you again, you have no choice. You  go into custody—but that’s the thing: the police have to catch you again. So, say the defendant does show up.  He believe s he was wrongly arrested. He gets out because the police don’t show up.  So  3/4 of the time, because the defendant was charged with a misdemeanor or skipped bail,  nothing happens. It was a waste  of time.

I now  work with a non-profit group that  addresses violence done to animals.  Could be dog fighting, could be  hoarding, could be actual physical abuse or neglect:,0,609661.story

Because we are better coordinated with both the police AND the  State’s Attorney’s office, these guys are rarely getting out on bail.  But it’s not like on TV.  First, there is an arraignment.  We are usually not around for that.  The defendant can still bond out, but often they can’t afford bond—or they know the system.  They aren’t working, & if they pay the bond, then they can’t have a public defender, so they don’t make the bond (10% of what the bond is).  Often,  they are out on probation, and  have violated probation, so they go back to jail.

Sometimes, they  go for trial, and their lawyer isn’t prepared, or asks for more discovery, or the prosecuting attorney isn’t in court, or the police haven’t been notified,,, so there is a postponement and the case is continued.  Sometimes the judge is late to court, or other  cases take longer, so the  defendant’s attorney has to leave…so the case is continued.  The defendant’s attorney asks for discovery (review of evidence, or time to find more evidence that would prove his client innocent) and the case is continued.

Who all is in court besides the defendant?  Usually family, friends, & us advocates. You can’t read while court is in session, nor can you talk. You just sit there, & then, hopefully, you can hear what is going on. The acoustics in most Chicago court rooms are so bad, & the judge is not speaking to the gallery, but the people right in front of him, and then, they often use so much legal jargon.

However, as I’ve stated in the past, we follow these cases and try to make sure justice is served. We are the animals’ voice.  Because we are there, the judges know that the community has an interest in seeing justice served, and we are the tipping point.

I beg any of you  who are either retired, on some sort of disability, or unemployed to seek out your local animal shelters or rescues & ask  if you can develop a program like ours, or contact for more information.  Can you spare 1 morning a month of sitting there, doing nothing,  getting to know prosecuting attornies and the police to make sure the animals are represented.  Because…I have to tell you …the bad guys? They arn’t just abusing animals. They are preying on your entire community.


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