When defendants in Illinois go on trial for state or federal offenses, they often face a jury trial. Jurors' life experiences and opinions about society can often affect their decisions, for better or worse. One Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in February 2019 formalized the recognition of that reality, saying that members of juries cannot leave their world views outside the courtroom. Instead, the court argued that it was not desirable for jurors to ignore their own lived experiences.
For many people in Illinois, the advancement of technology can also lead to a decrease in personal privacy. While many individuals are familiar with the controversies surrounding tech companies' use of personal data, the issue can be far more significant when law enforcement wants access to a person's locked cell phone. A federal judge's ruling may provide people with greater protection for their cell phone data. The judge at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that police cannot make people unlock their phones with their faces or fingers.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested a 37-year-old man out of state in connection with the fatal shooting of a 39-year-old man in Decatur on Christmas Day 2017. Police in Macon County processed the suspect, who remains in jail awaiting charges from the Macon County State's Attorney's Office.
Criminal cases in Illinois sometimes depend on testimony from witnesses. Although people tend to believe witnesses who identify suspects, this information is potentially unreliable. The Innocence Project, which helps people wrongfully convicted of killings and sex crimes gain their release with DNA evidence, reported that 71 percent of 350 exoneration cases involved witnesses who had identified the wrong people. A reform, known as a double-blind lineup, has begun to take hold in the law enforcement community because the new approach reduces the possibility of people misidentifying suspects.
Cell phone users in Illinois and nationwide gained a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the privacy of their cell site location information. Privacy advocates view the 5-4 decision as a landmark ruling that updates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures for the 21st century.
In Illinois, some people have been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Some of these people were convicted after being falsely identified by witnesses. The problem of false identifications in criminal cases is widespread, affecting innocent people across the U.S.
Passed in the summer of 2017, the Bail Reform Act took effect in Illinois on Jan. 1. The new law requires courts within the state to consider a defendant's financial situation when determining if he or she should post bail to be released. It also requires that the court consider the threat a person may face before requiring bail as a condition of release.
In Illinois, black people who are charged with crimes are likelier to be convicted of the charges that carry jail time and to receive harsher punishments than those who are white. While the disparate treatment of suspects by law enforcement officers has long been studied, a new study analyzed the treatment of defendants by prosecutors and the courts, finding that the disparate treatment continues within the court system.
Illinois residents can be charged with tampering with evidence if the authorities believe that the accused individuals attempted to conceal, alter, falsify or destroy the evidence. This evidence can include any object or documentation that could potentially be useful to a police investigation or inquiry.
On April 12, it was reported that an Illinois man who spent 21 years in prison received a $13 million award for a wrongful conviction. The man was convicted and incarcerated after he signed a murder confession that was allegedly drafted by Cook County prosecutors and officers with the Chicago Police Department.