justice served after five-year delay
Here's a sorry story of a an accused man who waited five years for his trial, at which the judge declared there was no case against him withing 15 minutes.
Bill White spent five years in Cook County Jail awaiting trial for murder. But it took a judge only 15 minutes to rule the state's key witness "worthless" and set White free.
One week later, White's co-defendants, Otis English, 32, and Roland Gray, 50, walked out of the jail when the state dropped their cases, too.
The men--who call themselves the "Wrigleyville Three" because they were charged with the murder of a young couple near the Cubs' ballpark in 1997--were caught in a legal system that moves far too slowly, Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan said.
"In a murder case, a reasonable time in jail would be 1-1/2 or two years," he said. "Anything over two years is ludicrous."
The Wrigleyville Three walked free in May. But another 29 men and women held for at least five years in Cook County Jail remain behind bars; most have never had their day in court. And 66 more inmates have been held in the jail longer than four years.
Such long delays can deny justice for the inmates, contribute to dangerous crowding in the jail and waste millions of taxpayer dollars.
Delays also can add to the emotional suffering of the victims of crime and their families.
"We definitely saw time wasted, money wasted," said an aunt of Che Messner, one of the Wrigleyville murder victims. "It was frustrating."
To say the least! I support punishing the guilty as much as the next person, but it's vitally important to remember that not everyone who goes on trial is, in fact, guilty. Zealousness on the part of prosecutors is laudable,
And this case pretty much gets to the heart of my reservations about the death penalty. I'm glad the system worked in this case -- and I certainly hope the state of Illinois is going about compensating this person and his co-defendants for the five years of their lives they spent in jail awaiting trial -- but that's just it: When someone goes to jail, if they're innocent, they can be released and compensated. If an innocent person is executed, well, oops. If death penalty proponents can guarantee that'll never happen, well and good. But when many of the same crowd are also so supportive of limiting appeals, it doesn't give me a lot of confidence.