CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office is clarifying comments she made Monday about people charged with violent crimes. The mayor said if the states attorney brings charges the person is guilty.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Cook County Public Defender’s Office took issue with her comments noting Chicago’s long history of false confessions and police misconduct. This is what the mayor said Monday at a press conference about public safety:
“But given the exacting standards, the states attorney has before charging a case which is prove beyond a reasonable doubt when those charges are brought, these people are guilty,” she said. “Of course they are entitled to a presumption of innocent. Of course, they are entitled to their day in court, but residents in our community are also entitled to safety from dangerous people. We need to keep pressing the criminal courts to lock up dangerous people and not put them out on bail or electronic monitoring back in the same communities that brave souls are mustering courage to say, ‘This is the person that is responsible.’ It undermines safety and tells the victims there is no justice for them.”
The criminal courts in the United States operates under the presumption of innocence — something the mayor’s office noted in statement released Monday night. The statement said in part, “Let’s be clear, as a lawyer, former federal prosecutor and former criminal defense attorney, the mayor of course knows that individuals are entitled to the presumption of innocence which is precisely what she said today.”
It goes on to repeat what the mayor said at the press conference which is that violent offenders should be held and not let back into the community unsupervised.
The Cook County Public Defenders Office sent out a tweet saying in part, “Chicago is the false confession capital of the nation. For decades, the city has shamefully disregarded the presumption of innocence which applies to everyone, regardless of the charge against them. As an attorney, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot knows that the criminal justice system is not designed to decide guilt early in the case.”
The mayor also said Chicago would see a significant drop in crime if violent offenders are held accountable and those accused of violent crimes, like murder, attempted murder and carjacking, aren’t back on the streets 24 to 48 hours after being arrested.
“When someone has a rap sheet as long as my arm and they commit another act of violence, they are a danger to the community and should be held pretrial,” she said. “I’m going to keep talking about that because that is essential to bring peace to our community.”
The ACLU told the Chicago Tribune, “It’s sad to see a highly trained lawyer and former prosecutor so badly mangle the meaning of our constitution.” The organization also criticized what it calls the mayors ongoing attacks on bail reform.