The Chicago Sun-Times ran a very interesting investigative piece today. Entitled “Why they won’t stop shooting in Chicago”, it examines the aftermath of an April 2008 weekend in Chicago where 40 people were shot, seven fatally.
So what has happened to the shooters in the two years since that weekend? Nothing.
So far, not one accused shooter has been convicted of pulling the trigger during those deadly 59 hours from April 18-20 of that year, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.
Only one suspected triggerman — a convicted armed robber caught with the AK-47 he allegedly used to blow away his boss — is in jail awaiting trial.
Six of the seven murders remain unsolved. In three other cases, the victims know who shot them but won’t testify against the shooter. They don’t want to get labeled a snitch or rat in the neighborhood.
Last year Chicago PD detectives cleared 18% of the outstanding non-fatal shootings from 2009. However, almost half were due to “exceptional” circumstances. Exceptional means that the victim won’t testify, the prosecutors don’t want to go to trial on the evidence, or, if luck would have it, the shooter is dead. This means that about 91% of the shooters during 2009 were never charged with a crime.
“The certainty of punishment is very, very low in Chicago, and that’s going to embolden people,” said defense attorney Thomas Needham, who was a top legal adviser to former police Supt. Terry Hillard. “It’s going to lead to less fear by the people who are going to consider shooting. That’s very alarming.”
Part of the problem is that the victims are not choir boys and may have criminal records themselves. Police and prosecutors acknowledge that this makes their case in court tougher. Also, as some privately told the reporters, the police and prosecutors work harder for innocent victims than for those that have been involved in past criminal activity.
While Mayor Daley continues to mouth off about the violence being due to guns, the reality is that most criminals know they can get away with shooting someone in Chicago. If victims won’t testify, police don’t investigate, and the State’s Attorney avoid prosecutions, the shooters walk. And as long as that continues to go on, the violence will continue. Only when their is certainty of punishment will it start to abate.
I suggest reading the whole article to get the victim’s full stories.