Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Guest Blogger Jack O'Malley On Cook County Justice

We are less than two weeks away from the start of our free book giveaway at Goodreads. Author Jack O'Malley is here to provide a little more insight into the way that justice is served in Cook County, Illinois, home of the city of Chicago.

An important element to THE KING OF THE IRISH is the state of the Cook County court system in 1889.

The novel touches on the fate of the Haymarket Anarchists, a trial that took place three years prior to the murder trial that forms the narrative. In the Haymarket case, as in the trial of the novel's protagonist Daniel Coughlin, it was common practice to select jurymen who were certain to vote for a conviction.

In time, with the Irish ascendant in Chicago politics, and political power-broker Alexander Sullivan exerting his influence, the laws were changed to curtail the practice.

Imagine the sense of doom that must have pervaded the heart of a man who knew he was innocent, but also knew that the judge hearing his case was not without bias, that the jury was stacked and empanelled to guarantee a conviction.

Imagine how you would feel if you walked into court and discovered that your judge was bat-shit crazy.

It has happened in the past, in the Cook County court system.

More amazing, it is still going on.

Cynthia Brim has been a judge since 2000, running on the Democratic ticket and returned to office by dutiful patronage workers who vote the straight ticket as if their jobs depended on it. Okay, their jobs do depend on it. That is the only logical explanation anyone can give for Ms. Brim being retained in the last election, even though she was declared insane.

Ms. Brim had a history of odd behavior at the bench, all of it related to a bipolar disorder. She was prone to delusions and hallucinations, and once was carried out when she turned catatonic.

So how much justice can you expect to be served by a judge who should have been removed?

Her most recent escapade had her assaulting a deputy, which led to her suspension, but not her removal from the bench. In spite of numerous instances of mental illness that impaired her ability as a judge over the years, she has never been brought up before the Judicial Review Board. The Democratic Party backed her retention this past November, despite a day in March that was filled with delusions that ended in her arrest.

She has recently been found not guilty by reason of insanity. She has not been shown the door, but continues to collect her six-figure salary while on a leave of absence.

Justice may be blind, thanks in part to laws that were enacted after Daniel Coughlin's trial for murder. Judges and prosecutors can't pick the jury pool, which is now a random selection.

Public outcry from the once critical Irish-American voting bloc helped to turn things around for Coughlin. Where is the public outcry over an insane judge being allowed to parcel out justice?

Working for the City of Chicago or the County of Cook, most likely, and therefore not willing to rock the boat that keeps a roof over their heads and food on the table.

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