Success in advocating for defendants in Cook County Criminal Court
Clients Client B
On November 14, in Cook County Circuit Court, Kevin Knight and Beth (Engel) Manning obtained a wonderful outcome for our client, an 18-year-old honors student whose pro bono defense we accepted as a referral from Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
The client and his cousin were jointly charged with armed robbery and other related offenses. The State alleged that the client facilitated the armed robbery of a neighbor by calling the neighbor to make sure he was home; and that the client's cousin, by himself, then restrained and robbed the neighbor at gunpoint, making off with the neighbor's car, some electronics, and a small amount of cash. The cousin was arrested within a week of the robbery after leading police on a high-speed chase while driving the stolen car and having just held up a gas station.
Our client was arrested a few months later. As to the armed robbery charge, the State pursued an "accountability" theory, which does not require proof that the defendant had any knowledge that a gun would be used in the robbery. This qualified the client for an automatic 15-year sentencing enhancement and meant that the client's exposure was 21 to 45 years in prison, even though he never left his apartment during the robbery, was not alleged to have known of any gun, and never saw a penny of the robbery proceeds.
While Kevin and Beth initially considered mounting a vigorous defense in the guilt phase of the case, receiving the client's detailed signed post-arrest statement a few weeks into the representation (as a surprise) caused a strategy shift and an emphasis on trying to mitigate exposure in the penalty phase. Kevin and Beth proceeded to lean on the ASA, noting the facts and circumstances that could support a motion to suppress the client's statement, as well as his redeeming qualities and other underlying equities. After weeks of negotiation, and without any diminishment in the strength of the State's case, Kevin and Beth were able to extract signification concessions -- in particular, the ASA offered an 8-year prison sentence on a plea to a lesser charge that does not carry the automatic sentencing enhancement and allows for 50% good-time credit. Kevin and Beth also pressed for, and got, an agreement from the State that it would not seek the client's cooperation (e.g., testimony against his cousin) in exchange for the reduced change / sentence and would dismiss a pending probation violation charge against him as part of the plea package.
With Kevin's and Beth's counsel, the client took the deal, and now, instead of likely remaining in prison until he's at least 40 or so, he will be released relatively soon (before he reaches 22) and be back on track to becoming a contributing member of his community.