Yesterday there was a status hearing at Cook County Criminal Court for Kevin Jones and Michael Pace, the individuals charged with murdering Blair Holt on a CTA bus last year. Both defendants are represented by excellent attorneys, among the best in the Public Defender’s Office. Jones’ lawyer has already had Jones’ confession suppressed. The Assistant States Attorney assigned to the case is also a determined and experienced advocate, so the trial—tentatively set for March 30 in Judge Nicholas R. Ford’s court—should be fascinating. And crowded. Members of the Blair family have been present at every hearing. The press and the defendants’ families will probably be represented as well.
As is my habit, I stayed after Pace and Jones were taken back to the lock-up. Theirs is not the only interesting story at 26th & Cal.
Sometimes the obscure cases are the most revealing. And when you sit in the gallery, you get the unofficial take, especially in the smaller courtrooms where the gallery is separated from the court proper—and the shushing bailiffs—by a wall of inch-thick glass. During one of the many recesses yesterday—a number of attorneys and at least one defendant were no-shows, I overheard an exchange between an offender named James, who was out on bail, and his attorney. It went something like this:
Attorney: “If you plead guilty, you’ll get two years of probation, with a curfew for the first six months to a year. And you’ll have to get a job and check in with a probation officer.”
James’ reply was unintelligible, but his body language screamed , “No way!”
Attorney: “I can’t make you take it, but if you don’t, they can put you in jail for three years. This is your third felony. You don’t get a deal for a third felony. And the States Attorney is pissed. If you don’t take it, you’re going to go to trial. Class two [felony} is three to seven [years].”
James didn’t appear to be impressed.
Attorney: “You know if there’s a case to be beaten, I’d beat it.”
James: (grudgingly) “I’ll give you that.”
Again, James’ response was non-verbal, but as he got up and followed the attorney into the court, the attorney said, “Don’t give the judge attitude ‘cause he’s a serious man.”
As the doors closed on them, a guy sitting behind me remarked—to no one in particular—on what a great deal the attorney had just brokered for his client.
After his plea was officially made and accepted, James was sent back to the gallery to wait for an interview with a probation officer. He didn’t wait patiently, complaining to others waiting similarly—and to several people via his cell phone—about what a raw deal he’d just been handed.
Having no psychic abilities whatsoever, I predict that James will fail to successfully complete his probation. I may be wrong—what do I know? I’m just an observer in the grand Monopoly game of criminal court.