Several significant developments in the state's criminal justice system have occurred recently. Two of these deal directly with Illinois' death penalty.
Death penalty--Illinois Capital Litigation
Trust Fund created
First, effective January 1, 2000, the Illinois Capital Crimes Litigation Act, Public Act 91-059, created the Capital Litigation Trust Fund. The purpose of the fund is to make funding available for the prosecution and defense of capital cases and the Act provides Trust Fund moneys shall be expended as follows:
(2) To pay the capital litigation expenses of trial defense including, but not limited to, investigatory and other assistance, expert, forensic, and other witnesses, and mitigation specialists and grants and aid provided to public defender or assistance to attorneys who have been appointed by the court to represent defendants who are charged with capital crimes.
(3) To pay the compensation of trial attorneys, other than public defenders, who have been appointed by the court to represent defendants who are charged with capital crimes.
(4) To provide State's Attorneys with funding for capital litigation expenses including, but not limited to, investigatory and other assistance and expert, forensic, and other witnesses necessary to prosecute capital cases. State's Attorneys in any county other than Cook County seeking funding for capital litigation expenses including, but not limited to, investigatory and other assistance and expert, forensic, or other witnesses under this section may request that the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor or the Attorney General, as the case may be, certify the expenses as reasonable, necessary, and appropriate for payment from the Trust Fund, on a form created by the State Treasurer.
(5) To provide financial support through the Attorney General pursuant to the Attorney General Act for the several county State's Attorneys outside of Cook County, but shall not be used to increase personnel for the Attorney General's Office.
(6) To provide financial support through the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor pursuant to the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Act for the several county State's Attorneys outside of Cook County, but shall not be used to increase personnel for the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.
(7) To provide financial support to the State Appellate
Defender pursuant to the State Appellate Defender Act. Monies expended from the Trust Fund shall be in addition to county funding for Public Defenders and State's Attorneys, and shall not be used to supplant or reduce ordinary and customary county funding.
The Act further provides:
(F) Moneys in the Trust Fund shall be appropriated to the State Appellate Defender, the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, the Attorney General and the State Treasurer. The State Appellate Defender shall receive an appropriation from the Trust Fund to enable it to provide assistance to appointed defense counsel throughout the State and to Public Defenders in counties other than Cook. The State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and the Attorney General shall receive appropriations from the Trust Fund to enable them to provide assistance to State's Attorneys in counties other than Cook County. Moneys shall be appropriated to the State Treasurer to enable the Treasurer (i) to make grants to Cook County, (ii) to pay the expenses of the Public Defenders and State's Attorneys in counties other than Cook County, (iii) to pay the expenses and compensation of appointed defense counsel in counties other than Cook County, and (iv) to pay the costs of administering the Trust Fund.
The Trust Fund Act sets the rate of compensation for capital case appointed trial counsel at a rate not to exceed $125. The Act also provides that capital case counsel shall meet such qualifications as the Illinois Supreme Court by Rule shall provide. (See following report on the Recommendations of the Special Supreme Court Committee on Capital Cases).
In order to carry out its statewide trial assistance responsibilities under the Act, the Office of the State Appellate Defender has established a Death Penalty Trial Assistance Office. The Trial Assistance Office will be staffed with attorneys, social workers and investigators who will be available to provide assistance in selected cases at two sites, one in Chicago and one in Springfield.
Illinois Supreme Court Special Committee on Capital Cases
On April 16, 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed a committee of seventeen Illinois judges chaired by the Hon. Thomas R. Fitzgerald, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, to study the death penalty process in Illinois.
On October 28, 1999, the Committee submitted its report to the court. Among the Committee's recommendations is the creation of a Capital Litigation Trial Bar, requiring minimum training and experience standards for all attorneys--defense and prosecution, appointed and private--who try capital cases. The Supreme Court Committee also recommends that two appropriately certified capital litigation trial bar members be appointed to represent capital defendants.
Other recommendations in the report recommend enhancement of discovery procedures to better insure that materials favorable to the defense have been disclosed to the defense by the prosecution side. The discovery proposals include allowing defense attorneys to question under oath potential prosecution witnesses before trial upon a showing of good cause; and establishing standardized procedures for disclosing DNA testing and evidence. The Supreme Court Committee also recommends close supervision in capital cases by trial judges, and that prosecutors be required to give notice of their intent to seek or decline to seek the death penalty within 120 days after arraignment.
The Supreme Court Committee's report recommended that police interrogations be videotaped, either voluntarily by law enforcement agencies in Illinois or required through legislative enactment.
The import of the committee's work became even more evident as Governor Ryan recently issued a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.
Editor's note: Welcome to the inaugural column in which we plan to regularly profile attorneys or offices in the government sector.