St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly seems to have the attention of law professors and the public defender’s office. He put together protocol to evaluate cases in which the person charged might actually be innocent.
Few things get a law professor or folk singer as jazzed as the prospect of freeing a jailed innocent. Most of the public is numb to the pleas of inmates who all claim innocence.
Yet the folks in a county jail awaiting trial are a very different group and are presumed innocent. Some of them may be.
Kelly’s case reviews freed two men who each spent more than a year in jail. Most of the nine people freed passed a polygraph test.
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But nine cases in two years doesn’t seem like much in a county that handles thousands of criminal cases. It’s not clear why a system or protocol is needed.
Except that this all seems to be the exception. No one else in Illinois is doing it. Prosecutors are about getting convictions, and that mindset of a conviction being a win is hard to break.
So maybe Kelly is on to something. Maybe it is worthwhile offering up these close looks and polygraphs on a regular basis to prevent innocent people from being held. Besides the ethics of holding an innocent person, police are not seeking the true perp as long as they have someone charged.
It shouldn’t take 414 days to figure out whether someone did the crime. If this program speeds up the snail’s pace of justice, there again is reason to look at its expansion.