by Dale Chappell
Cook County Judge William H. Hooks took the unusual step of granting murder defendant Jackie Wilson a no-money bond, letting Wilson go free while he awaits a new trial.
Wilson’s conviction was vacated after Hooks concluded his confession was coerced after former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates physically coerced Wilson to confess. Illinois wants to try him again for the third time.
Despite General Order 18.8A, by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, ordering judges to stop putting people in jail simply because they cannot afford a money bond, the county has a long way to go.
About 450,000 people across the U.S. are in pretrial incarceration, with 90 percent of them in jail only because they cannot afford to pay a money bond.
Around 2,000 of those remain in jail in Cook County, notwithstanding Evans’ 2017 order. Illinois law allows judges to hold someone in pretrial detention but only if the State meets its burden of proving the person is a threat to the public. Instead, judges routinely set high money bonds, usually without a hearing. This unconstitutional practice keeps the poor in jail, simply because they cannot find a way to pay the bond.
When Evans entered the General Order in September 2017, the number of people in Cook County jail dropped by 1,500, but then it leveled off shortly afterward, mostly because judges still fail to follow the Order.
Advocates hope that Judge Hooks’ release of Wilson will prompt other county judges to do the same. Unfortunately, it usually takes a high-profile case to get such relief.
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