Kudos to a Chicago DA fighting FOR a prisoner’s rights

Normally, the prosecutor gives a big “thumbs up” when a judge keeps a suspect in jail.

Not this time.

The second-ranking prosecutor in Cook County (Chicago) not only gave a thumbs down, he risked contempt of court by arguing so vociferously against the judge.

  • The judge: Nicholas Ford, known for his tough sentences.
  • The prosecutor: Eric Sussman. (Full disclosure: I have known Eric all his life.)
  • The defendant: Karen Padilla, held on several charges and mother of a new baby, born in jail

The Chicago Tribune reports (link here):

A longtime Cook County judge and a top prosecutor repeatedly shouted at each other Monday at a tense hearing over whether a pregnant woman should have been jailed without bail for more than a month this summer.

“I have every right to hold her,” said Judge Nicholas Ford, a former prosecutor known for imposing tough sentences.

“You do not!” countered First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman, his voice raised.

At times, the argument grew so heated that the two talked over each other, making their comments nearly unintelligible, as Karen Padilla stood nearby with her 3-week-old daughter strapped on her chest in a carrier. –Chicago Tribune

The defendant, Padilla, had several significant charges pending, none violent. Her current problems began when she was pulled over for a traffic violation, admitted that she had no driving license, and, when her records were checked, was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant (she was charged with pocketing customers’ payments at a restaurant where she worked).

So, she was taken to jail and was scheduled for a hearing, where she might be released, pending a trial date.

Because her hearing was delayed (no judge was available, apparently), the 25-year-old mother stayed in jail and gave birth there.

“Mr. Sussman, this is simple,” [Judge] Ford said.

“No, it’s not,” Sussman interjected, his voice raised, and the two again began to shout over each other.

“She had to give birth to her daughter in jail!” said Sussman, noting that Padilla couldn’t afford to pay restitution or fees as she was ordered. “This is not a debtor’s prison you’re running, your honor … and you illegally sentenced her to jail.”

“I didn’t sentence her to anything,” Ford shot back. –Chicago Tribune

Padilla was ultimately released on her on own recognizance.

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Comment: I couldn’t be prouder of Eric Sussman for his conduct in this case.

I know his family shares that pride.

I only wish his father, Art (himself a very distinguished attorney), were here with mom Rita to smile at the work Eric is doing and the values he is fighting for.

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