Kane County State's Attorney Brings Best Practices Idea to Illinois

Kane County State’s Attorney Brings Best Practices Idea to Illinois

The state of Illinois has put into place a new committee its sponsor says will “help eliminate false confessions, false identifications and false convictions in criminal prosecutions within the state of Illinois.”

According to a Wednesday press release distributed by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor has announced the enactment of Public Act 98-938, which establishes a Best Practices Committee within the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor to evaluate and recommend a best practices protocol on specific issues related to investigation and prosecution of serious criminal offenses.

Based on a national model being promoted by the Bureau of Justice Administration and pioneered in New York State, this is the first such committee that is established through legislation.

“This law was a great idea brought forth by Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon,” said Illinois Rep. Tom Cross, co-sponsor of HB 5899. “It will help bring best practices standards for serious criminal prosecutions and will improve the justice systems for everyone in Illinois.”

Several states are developing informal committees using the BJA/New York model, but national calls for evidence-based policies make the creation of a legally recognized committee of experienced prosecutors both unique and important. Illinois Sen. Karen McConnaughay also co-sponsored HB 5899, which passed in a 56-0 vote by the state Senate.

“I’ve seen the kind of innovation that Joe McMahon has brought to his office, and his enthusiasm for this initiative is contagious,” McConnaughay said. “It’s time that our criminal justice policy be based on something more than a shocking headline, a bad case result, or feel-good reform that isn’t grounded in science and real-world experience.”

The initiative, along with the enactment of the new electronic search warrant law and the establishment of fitness hearing reforms, reflects the agency’s commitment to shaping criminal justice policy and practices and not merely reacting to changes in the law, society or technology.

Patrick J. Delfino, director of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor office, said the committee would help ensure consistency and effectiveness in criminal prosecution throughout Illinois.

“There is tremendous diversity among Illinois’ 102 state’s attorney’s offices we serve. Nearly half have no assistants while others have developed specialized units to combat domestic violence, gangs and even elder abuse,” he said. “Part of our job is to keep up with national developments and to educate and incorporate new approaches to our member prosecutors throughout the state. This committee will help us to do just that.”

According to the legislation, the committee will:

  1. Propose enhanced procedures relevant to the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses.
  2. Collaborate with law enforcement partners in the development of enhanced procedures.
  3. Review public and private sector reports dealing with reduction of wrongful convictions.
  4. Identify and assess innovations to the criminal justice system.
  5. Examine scientific studies concerning new procedures.
  6. Create training programs for prosecutors and police on the best practice protocols developed by the Committee in collaboration with law enforcement.
  7. Review specific proposals submitted by the General Assembly by way of resolution and report back its findings and recommendations in a timely manner.