Violence in Chicago: Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans defends justice system and electronic surveillance in rare public appearance

CHICAGO (WLS) — A top Cook County judge is defending the justice system against criticism that judges aren’t tough enough on violent offenders and are leaving too many people on electronic surveillance.

While addressing the Union League Club on Thursday in a rare public appearance, Chief Justice Tim Evans faced tough questions about why violent offenders are released from prison on electronic monitoring while awaiting their trial. He also conceded that it might be time to review the release criteria before trial.

“The judge is the one who sits as an impartial arbiter,” Evans said. “And if that judge doesn’t see the evidence there, regardless of the charge, he or she could decide to release the person before trial.”

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And Evans said that since October, no one accused of murder or attempted murder has been released on electronic monitoring.

Evans explained that judges use a public safety assessment tool that weighs nine criteria to determine whether or not the suspect poses a threat to the public if released.

Without commenting directly 16-year-old charged with murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, Evans said with the minors, the goal is not to lock them up if possible.

“The goal of the courts in dealing with minors is to try to rehabilitate minors,” Evans said.

But he added that Harvard University is currently reviewing the security assessment tool to see if it needs to be changed. He also said it might be time to rethink parental responsibility for the criminal behavior of their children.

But to critics who think the courts have become too lenient on criminals, Evans cited research which showed that over the past four years the court reviewed 110,000 cases that came through the system. Of these, 81% of the defendants did not commit any other crime.

Evans, who has been the frequent target of criticism from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Superintendent of Police David Brown over armed offenders being released on electronic monitoring, said it was time to end the finger pointing and work together .

“I’m not pointing fingers at anyone,” Evans said. “I’m not scapegoating anyone.”

Evans also announced a new policy to speed up criminal cases, and he’s calling for more money to be spent on witness protection programs to help solve crimes.

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