Monday, Mayor Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez rolled out a proposal for state legislation they said will have an effect on Chicago's gang murder crisis. Their idea of tougher sentences for using a gun to commit crimes will need sponsors in the state legislature, passage through both chambers, and the governor's signature to become law. That will take some time. In the meantime the shootings, the tragedies and the disgrace continue and are expanding.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says the prosecutors on her staff push for the toughest sentences Illinois law allows, but Cook County judges often punish criminals with lesser sentences than the law allows. More and more, Chicago law enforcement is passing the buck for Chicago's notorious violent crime record to Cook County judges - black-robed justices beholden to the Cook County Democrat Party for their elections, position, and pay.
The job of slating acceptable Democrat candidates for Cook County judgeships fall into the hands of such individuals as the powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke and his Burnham Committee. Burke, whose own wife is an Illinois Supreme Court justice, works in partnership with the head of the Cook County Democrat Party, Joe Berrios, who also happens to be the Cook County Assessor. Together, Burke and Berrios work with House Speaker and Illinois Democrat Party Chairman Mike Madigan to find and seat candidates to be elected Cook County judges.
Thus Alvarez, who was elected with Burke, Berrios and Madigan's help, seemed strangely outspoken at a press conference Monday saying that until lawmakers pass the package in Illinois, she will tell Cook prosecutors to seek the maximum sentences under current law for known gang members and other criminals convicted of gun possession charges. She also acknowledged that lawyers in her office often seek the stiffest sentences they can, with judges only sometimes going along with the requests. Judges also can convict defendants of different charges that carry lighter sentences.
While legislation forcing judges and prosecutors to give stronger sentences for gun-affiliated crimes makes sense even to gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association, Anita Alvarez' complaints about Cook County judges seem more like an attempt to point fingers and place blame elsewhere. A deflection, psychologists call it.
Perhaps it's the Cook County Democrat Party and the persons involved in slating men and women to be judges - including Illinois Democrats like House Speaker Mike Madigan, his daughter Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Democrat Party head Joe Berrios, and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke - that should be held accountable for the killings and gun violence in Chicago.
And maybe even the Democrat Mayor Emanuel, who is calling for another irrelevant gun control measure to ban assault weapons, rather than encourage the passage of concealed carry so that law-abiding Illinois citizens could legally arm and defend themselves.
For sure, it's time to point fingers at those that are desperately trying to deflect blame elsewhere. And most importantly, it's time for Illinoisans to demand something be done to change the corrupted judge selection system in Cook County.
Your and your kids' lives and freedoms are at stake.
Copyright IllinoisReview.com 2013.
Fran Eaton is co-founder and editor of Illinois Review. Reach her at [email protected]