How can I submit a statement to a court regarding the defendant in a hearing?
July 12, 2010 11:29 AM   Subscribe

How can I submit a personal statement to a court regarding the defendant in a hearing in Cook County, Illinois?

An acquaintance of mine physically harmed his girlfriend. She, rightly so, is pressing charges. The hearing is on the 20th. The guy is an addict, and his violence is largely due to his addiction. (I'm not looking to discuss this matter. Thank you.) I would like to submit a statement to the court to consider at the hearing, addressing the addiction and recommending that the guy be sent to in-patient rehab. How would I go about doing this?
The crime was committed in Chicago.
posted by dvrcthewrld to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Although written letters may be considered by the court in reference to sentencing and setting of bonds, if this is a hearing on the merits the court might not consider your written statement, since you will not be available for cross-examination.

I think you should find out who the guy's attorney is, and contact that attorney for his or her advice on how your input will be most effective.
posted by jayder at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2010

Is this a sentencing hearing, or a pre-trial? The kind of statement you're aiming to make would probably (IANAL) be most appropriate for a sentencing hearing; if they're any earlier in the process, you're jumping the gun a bit suggesting where he should go, as if he hasn't been convicted (or plead out), then the court doesn't really have any right to tell him where to go yet...

At any rate, if you contact the DA's office (or, even better, if you can get your friend to tell you the name of the specific ADA handling her case), they might tell you where to send it and when.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2010

It depends on whether you want to submit it on behalf of the government (the prosecutor) or on behalf of the defendant. What happens at criminal hearings, from arraignments to sentencing is that in advance, each side can submits materials to the judge, including letters from people who are interested in providing additional information. So the best way to get a letter to the judge is to provide it to the prosecutor or the defense attorney -- in advance. Criminal hearings are open proceedings, meaning that the courtroom is open to the public, so you also can attend them if you want. In many jurisdictions, the judge will allow people to speak on behalf of either side at hearings, including sentencing, but again, that is arranged through the attorneys.

Your last option is to write a letter directly to the assigned judge. If you do that, make sure that both the prosecutor and defense attorney are copied, as it is against the rules to communicate "ex parte" with the sentencing judge.

It sounds to me as if you are interested in a bail hearing proceeding, where the conditions of release are set. There may not be an assigned judge yet, so it would likely be best to contact the defense attorney to try to get your input to the judge who handles the hearing. The defense attorney can also tell you if an in person appearance would be more effective or less effective than a letter.

I'd add that at the pretrial stage, judges are usually looking for concrete alternatives to incarceration, rather than just getting opinions from acquaintances -- are you willing to step up and be responsible for your acquaintance, or do you have specific community resources in mind for the addiction treatment you think is needed? If not, you may want to wait to try to provide input until a sentencing proceeding, assuming there is eventually a conviction.
posted by bearwife at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2010

It's not a given that this would be best done at a sentencing hearing as FlyingMonkey suggests. Cook County may have some form of pre-trial diversion program set up, or a few other possible options.

You may want to drop a line to the Illinois Association of Drug Court Professionals and ask them what your options are. Although he's not going to be in a drug court, it's likely that they'll have the right info anyways.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:00 PM on July 12, 2010

Is this what you are talking about?
posted by gjc at 3:12 PM on July 12, 2010

Jayder is right. Contact the defense attorney and write a great letter. Get it to the attorney before a plea bargain happens.

Stick to things you've observed, and facts. Don't be maudlin.

The one time I did this for an employee, I wrote out everything I had observed about him for the six months that he'd been working for us. I spent 10 hours on it. Anyone who read it saw what I saw in him. I didn't try to make any argument about what he did wrong or deserved.

The letter came in to play after a plea bargain had already occurred. The prosecutor looked ill after he read it and the judge was clearly moved. Maybe it helped that a truly horrible rape case sentencing was immediately prior to our hearing. They modified the plea bargain at the bench.

Our guy got 6 months work-release in the county jail instead of 7 years in the state system, and bonus mandatory therapies. 10 years later, he's still a crazy guy, but he's fun-crazy now. Clean, on top of his child support, GED, some college, decent job.

You could make a huge difference, but only you know if your gut is really telling you this guy is a worthwhile salvage project.

Good luck!
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:19 PM on July 12, 2010

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