Defendant Appeals Sentence Issued by Judge Who Had Heroin Addiction
In 2011, an Illinois jury found a defendant guilty of armed violence, aggravated battery with a firearm, and attempted robbery. The trial took place before the Honorable Judge Michael Cook. Cook sentenced the defendant to 29 years in prison for his crimes. However, Judge Cook was brought up on charges himself of possession of heroin and later admitted to being a heroin addict.
The defendant filed an appeal in 2014 and the appellate court upheld both the conviction and the sentence. The defendant filed another appeal in 2016 on the basis that the judge was on drugs when he issued the sentence. The defendant alleged that the judge was “nodding off” during the proceedings and was under the influence of heroin when he issued the sentence. His attorney argued that he was denied a fundamental right to a fair trial because the judge was on drugs when he oversaw the case. The defense further argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to file a motion to substitute Judge Cook for another jurist. The attorney was also blamed for failing to make the State’s Attorney aware that Judge Cook appeared under the influence when he was presiding over the case. The attorney further failed to contact alibi witnesses, and lastly, smelled like he had alcohol on his breath.
The state’s response
The state filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. In its motion, the state argued that there was no evidence that Judge Cook was prejudicial in his adjudication of the case. They further argued that there was no evidence that Judge Cook was under the influence when he was presiding over the case. The trial took place two years before Cook was arrested for drug possession.
In terms of ineffective assistance of counsel, the state argued that the defendant failed to provide any corroborating evidence that his attorney failed to provide him with a strong defense. The decision to not call alibi witnesses was a matter of strategy, according to the state. The defendant further failed to provide any new evidence of actual innocence. The defendant failed to raise issues related to his own attorney in the original appeal. The state argued that as such, these claims were barred.
The defendant was angling for an evidentiary hearing based on Judge Cook’s alleged drug use during the trial and his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. However, the defendant could not establish that either the judge was under the influence at the time or that he received an unfair trial. Special prosecutors conducted a review of Judge Cook’s cases and found that two of them should be looked at more closely. The defendant’s case was not among those that seemed to be problematic.
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