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Cook County prosecutors told not to subpoena witnesses for trial preparation as office revamps policies – Chicago Tribune


Some Cook County prosecutors have been instructed to not subpoena witnesses for dates when their testimony just isn’t required in court docket, the Tribune has discovered, halting a typical observe of looking for court docket orders summoning witnesses to fulfill with prosecutors forward of trial.

A spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx stated that official steerage on using subpoenas is within the works however has not been finalized. However, prosecutors in some elements of the workplace got the instruction final week, a number of sources confirmed.

The advisement got here days after a lawsuit filed in federal court docket final week alleged that it’s unconstitutional and abusive to subpoena witnesses merely to assist prosecutors put together for trial.

Criticism of trial-prep subpoenas grew louder after phrase unfold concerning the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a younger mom who spent three weeks in jail for not responding to a subpoena that summoned her to prosecutors’ places of work for preparation.

The subpoena course of is supposed to compel somebody’s look in court docket — not their cooperation with prosecutors, authorized observers stated. Defense attorneys have additionally lengthy criticized the observe, notably when it ends in witnesses being locked up.

The observe of looking for trial-prep subpoenas has been commonplace for some Cook County prosecutors, and a few judges even inspired them. But in some elements of the state’s lawyer’s workplace, such subpoenas had been largely deserted years in the past, sources instructed the Tribune.

Some rank-and-file prosecutors had been additionally lately instructed to inform supervisors in the event that they need to petition for contempt prices for individuals who don’t adjust to subpoenas, resulting in hypothesis that such subpoenas wouldn’t be constantly enforced, which they stated may make it more durable to get witnesses via the door even on trial dates.

A spokesperson for Foxx’s workplace reiterated that no new coverage has been finalized, and stated they’ll deal with any considerations raised by the employees because the official steerage is being accomplished.

The core of the issue is troublesome to handle with any coverage: Many individuals merely don’t need to cooperate with police or prosecutors.

Multiple courthouse sources, together with longtime prosecutors, had been candid concerning the causes. People in communities affected by violence typically concern for his or her security in the event that they turn out to be generally known as cooperators. Nobody is raring to sit down in a room filled with strangers and recount probably the most traumatic experiences of their lives. And some witnesses merely don’t belief regulation enforcement.

But a case rises and falls on their bodily presence in court docket. Hence, some prosecutors have gone to nice lengths to safe the looks of reluctant witnesses, and have sought incarceration for individuals who duck subpoenas for trial and for trial preparation.

There are indicators which may be altering. On May 6, the day some prosecutors got new directives on subpoenas, Circuit Judge William Gamboney presided over an uncommon listening to for a person accused of skipping out on a subpoena ordering him to testify at trial.

Prosecutors in Gamboney’s courtroom that day had been looking for to get the person held in contempt of court docket for allegedly ducking the court docket summons, in accordance with court docket information and a transcript of the listening to. The defendant went to trial in March with out testimony from this witness and was acquitted.

Prosecutors at first registered no objection to Gamboney holding the person in custody pending a listening to on the contempt. But then, some unspecified period of time later, they got here again into court docket and took the weird step of asking that he be launched pending the listening to.

A spokesperson for Foxx’s workplace declined to touch upon why prosecutors requested for his launch.

Gamboney denied that request, saying he was “a little flabbergasted.” The verdict within the case may have been totally different had he proven as much as testify, Gamboney stated.

“This goes to the fabric of what we do for a living every day. If people can walk out, not respond to subpoenas, eyewitnesses on murder cases and walk away, I have no confidence at all that (he) would ever show up again,” Gamboney stated, in accordance with a transcript. “… He bolted on a subpoena that had my name on it on a murder case.”

Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner contributed.

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com



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