See People v. Pace, 2015 IL App (1st) 110415 (September). Episode 092 (Duration 7:30)
Judge speaks from the heart. His 100 year sentence is quickly reversed. Judge wears his judicial bias on his sleeves in this one.
Judges Are People Too
The murder of an innocent young high school student was the last straw for this judge.
He let it all out after that.
At the sentencing hearing the court stated …
“I, like most of you, wake up each morning and walk out and take the paper off my steps. I, like most of you, have been saddened by what’s going on in our city. A lot of mornings I wake up and walk my daughter to a public school in this city, not, of course, over the course of the summer. So when I talk about the affects that this crime or that my sentence will have on us as a society, I’m talking from my own personal experience, which I will bring to bear on what I think is the appropriate sentence in this case…”
The court went on to talk about the devastation the gang violence has brought to his city. Everything the court said was completely humane, correct and compelling.
To nonlawyers this sounds exactly like the kind of judge we would want in criminal courts.
However, experienced criminal lawyers, including the appellate judges who reviewed this case, quickly noticed that this judge had crossed some lines.
It is a cardinal rule that during a sentencing hearing a judge cannot consider any evidence outside the record of the proceedings before the court.
This includes any personal bias, beliefs, or disgust held by the sentencing judge.
Here is What The Judge Said
The reviewing court went out of its way to find that this judge did not cross lines of impartiality in some respects.
But with the record before it the appellate court had no choice but to find that the trial judge had considered its personal feelings about gang violence as well as evidence that was not presented by either party.
The sentencing judge said that…
- It was “saddened” and that it would “bring to bear” its “personal experience” of the effects of gang violence when sentencing defendant
- He walks his daughter to school
- He was just like the victims who loved their child
- He was aligned with the victims’ families, declaring “[t]he [victim’s family], their son, the other children on that bus, they define who I am.”
- There are way more of us than there are gang members
- I watched Defendant mount the bus I mount with my daughter
- It was “weary tired of watching doctors, psychologists, walk into my courtroom and somehow provide some shade for the conduct of a person like [Defendant].”
There was much more. In fact, the portion of the record in which the trial court announced its sentence goes on for 16 pages.
“At least four of those pages were devoted solely to the court discussing its personal feelings about gang violence; other large portions see the judge discussing the victims and stating that that he was aligned with them.” ¶ 108.
“The trial court’s extensive remarks about the problem of gang violence in Chicago, as well as its discussions of its personal views and experiences and consideration of evidence not located in the record, show that the judge considered much more than just the facts of the case and the mitigating and aggravating factors.”¶ 107.
Very Human Reaction
It is hard to say exactly, why this horrible case was the one that finally caused the court so much personally felt anguish.
The prosecutors, defense attorneys, and even the judges who work on these cases are all decent people.
We are all still human no matter what side of a case we may find ourselves. No one ever said the task before us was an easy one.