* Press release…
The Illinois Supreme Court today issued two new orders which will resume statutory time restrictions for speedy trials on October 1 and relax social distancing requirements in courthouses. Both orders are effective immediately.
“It is important to note that our courts remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic and thousands of court proceedings have taken place via both in-person and virtual hearings,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said. “However, conducting criminal jury trials has been very difficult. These two orders will help our courts prepare for a return to a full slate of jury trials.”
M.R. 30370, In re: Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19 Emergency/Social Distancing, states that “Chief Circuit Judges of the State are permitted to relax or eliminate social distancing requirements,” and notes that the decision to do so should be based on local conditions.
M.R. 30370, Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19 Emergency/Speedy Trial, states that statutory time restrictions will no longer be tolled and that “all days on and following October 1, 2021, shall be included in speedy trial computations contained in section 103-5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 and section 5-601 of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act”. This provides the chief circuit judges at least 90 days to prepare for the tolling to be lifted.
The order also states the days prior to March 20, 2020, and April 3, 2020, when the Court put out orders tolling the statutory time restrictions for section 103-5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 and section 5-601 of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act, will be included in speedy trial computations.
The orders are here.
* Context from a few days ago…
(T)he court’s suspension of speedy trial rules has contributed to a growing backlog in the Cook County criminal court, leaving thousands of mostly Black and Latinx people locked in the Cook County Jail and on electronic monitoring for more than a year awaiting trial. Experts worry that the backlog will worsen throughout the summer, when shootings and other types of violent crimes normally increase.
Defense attorneys who spoke with Injustice Watch said the justices have to do a better job balancing public health needs with defendants’ rights to a speedy trial.
“It is our contention that not enough of these [backlogged] cases have resolved, and much of that has to do with the fact that there are really no speedy trial rights available,” said Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell Jr. “The need to resolve these cases is great for our clients. The mental trauma, anxiety, anticipation is overwhelming.”