Every once in a while someone will ask me if I prosecute criminal cases in addition to defending them. This question comes up enough (albeit infrequently) that I thought I would address it on this blog. The people asking this usually think that a private-practice lawyer can be hired to either prosecute or defend criminal cases. This is not true in Illinois. The government, primarily via the state’s attorney’s office in each county, prosecutes cases; victims cannot hire lawyers to press charges. Now, the government may employ private-sector lawyers (e.g., part-time prosecutors), however, it is still the government prosecuting the cases and not hired guns.
Archive for the 'Prosecutors' Category
There are times, usually in the domestic-battery context, when a victim does not want the government to prosecute a defendant. The victim can ask the government to not prosecute the defendant, however, the government is not required to honor the victim’s request. The decision whether to press charges belongs solely to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor can either ignore or honor a victim’s wishes. Charges are dismissed by prosecutors and not victims.
I like Kentucky. It is a beautiful state. I also like a good joke, but I will be cautious before I tell a joke in Kentucky — at least one prosecutor there has no sense of humor. Recently, a Kentucky politician, Otis Hensley, landed an all-inclusive stay in a county jail for jesting about trading a hog for a couple of young girls. According to the AP:
The ordeal began last week when Hensley’s wife sent him to a local grocery store to buy ground beef. While there, Hensley encountered a woman with her two nieces, ages 11 and 13. “I offered to trade her a fattening hog for those girls,” Hensley said. “I meant it as a joke. I’ve said it a million times. Most people get a kick out of it.”
The woman didn’t laugh. Instead, the family obtained a warrant for Hensley’s arrest from the local prosecutor, claiming the comment was intended to entice the children into illegal sexual activity.
[ . . .]
Appalachian scholar Loyal Jones said the jest Hensley made has been around for generations and actually is intended as a compliment.
The State eventually caught the punchline and dismissed the charges.
I don’t want to see this story repeated in Illinois, so I have listed some things I have heard people say about young children. Explanations follow each quip. If any prosecutors out there need additional explanation, they should feel free to contact me.
– She’s so adorable . . . I could take her home with me. The person doesn’t actually want to take the child home. The person has bills to pay and kids of her own to feed and take care of. All the person is doing is paying a compliment about the child to the child’s parents. The person is not communicating an intent to kidnap the child.
– She’s so cute . . . I could just eat her up. The person is not a cannibal. The person has no intention of actually eating the child. Again, the person is paying a compliment about the child to the child’s parents.
– That boy is spoiled rotten. The child is not decomposing. The person is merely commenting that the child has received so much attention that it has had a negative impact on his personality. There is no need to start a child-abuse investigation.
This year, Coles County will elect a state’s attorney. There are three candidates for the job and all three have been the target of public ridicule. To get a taste of some of the abuse being given, check out the comments to this letter to the editor of Charleston and Mattoon’s newspaper. I am sure that there are many attorneys out there who would like to be the state’s attorney but are not willing to run for the position. This is because they have no interest in a long election campaign saturated in invective. My hat is off to the three gentlemen running for state’s attorney — I admire their thick skins.