Murder case compromised

September 4, 2013 

Yoko Cullen's family cried as they listened to the horrific details of her death in court this week, and who can blame them? DaQuan D. Barnes in a guilty plea said he and two other people locked the 85-year-old Cullen in her car trunk, abducted her, beat her with tire irons and ultimately burned her alive.

They targeted Cullen over money she won at a bingo game. Each killer's share: $130.

Too bad Illinois no longer administers the death penalty. At a minimum, her killers should get the maximum possible sentence of life in prison.

But here's another reason to cry: Prosecutors won't ask the judge to sentence Barnes to life but just 60 years. And his defense attorney could still ask for the minimum of 20 years.

Barnes is getting a deal in part to ensure he won't make an issue of the fact that former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook and former East St. Louis detective Orlando Ward had roles in his case. Cook is awaiting an unrelated trial of his own, for heroin possession; Ward is charged in an unrelated case with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

How many other criminal prosecutions will be compromised or even scuttled because of Cook's or Ward's involvement?

Some people think that a judge using drugs is a victimless crime, but this case shows that's not necessarily true. This is why judges -- and policemen and other officers of the court -- should be tested for drugs routinely.

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