Friday, February 10, 2012
An Illinois Hearing Board has imposed a reprimand of a former attorney in the Cook County State's Attorney office.
The attorney's background is set forth in the report:
Respondent testified she has been an attorney with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office since 1987 and has worked in various divisions of that organization. In 1998, she became the senior sex crimes trial specialist and in 2001, began working with the gang crimes unit. In June 2005, she became the deputy supervisor of preliminary hearings but continued to do some trial work through the summer of 2009. Throughout Respondent’s tenure at the State’s Attorney’s office, she has participated in and conducted training seminars, including seminars on ethics, capital litigation, and DNA. When training young attorneys in her office, she teaches from the perspective of age and experience. Respondent has also authored training materials and taught trial advocacy at local law schools.
Respondent testified that, as an Assistant State’s Attorney, she has handled 160 jury trials. Of that number, she lost five or six cases. As to the cases she won, she estimated that at least 148 were appealed but only a handful were reversed. Respondent noted that the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments is raised as an issue in almost every appeal. None of her cases have been reversed for other types of prosecutorial misconduct, such as failure to disclose evidence, suborning perjury, or giving rewards to a witness. Respondent believes she is regarded as one of the most reasonable attorneys in her building.
With respect to closing arguments, Respondent stated that although prosecutors have extremely wide latitude, certain lines cannot be crossed and she has never been accused of crossing those lines. Other than the bright lines, the individual appellate opinions differ on guidance offered, and the guidance is constantly changing. In more recent years the appellate and reviewing courts have become stricter in terms of the parameters of closing argument. Conduct that was permissible in 1998 or 1999 may not have been proper a few years later, especially with respect to tone and the use of sarcasm. According to Respondent, the overriding rule is that the trial court is in the best position to ascertain whether or not there was a problem in closing argument.
The board sustained charges of misconduct in one of four charged instances:
...while campaigning for judicial office you made misleading statements to an internet blogger regarding the disposition of a prior ARDC matter. Specifically, you erroneously stated you had a full and complete hearing before the ARDC; you were completely cleared by the ARDC; anyone could research the matter and learn the outcome of the ARDC proceedings; and the ARDC recognized you had never flouted any court ruling or admonishment. At your suggestion, your statements were published on the internet.
The other charged instances, which the board found were not supported by clear and convincing evidence, involved allegations of improper closing arguments. (Mike Frisch)