Beaten woman still healing, attacker is free

September 2, 2012 8:37:51 PM PDT
A woman brutally beaten in the South Loop four years ago says the criminal justice system has failed her and, she fears, is failing to keep others safe.

The attack happened when the woman and her boyfriend refused demands to give two homeless people cigarettes.

The victim says her attacker appears to be experiencing far more freedom than she is.

It was Jen Hall's 36th birthday, but the night of celebration ended abruptly.

"I was paralyzed," she said. "I couldn't walk. I was bald and I had 85 staples in my head. I was missing 20-something teeth, I had 5 or 6 teeth left in my mouth. It was very scary."

Nearly as swift as the beating came arrests and justice. Or so Hall thought.

Two homeless people, Derrick King and Joyce Burgess, were charged with attempted murder. But then, prosecutors struck a deal.

King pled guilty to robbery and was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Less than three weeks after that plea deal, he was set free, part of a since scuttled early release program meant to save the state money.

Since his release in 2009, King's rap sheet has grown.

Two new assault charges, two arrests for drug possession and earlier this year he was charged with domestic battery with intent to commit bodily harm.

Over the last ten years, he's been charged with assault, battery, theft, robbery or drug possessions 12 times.

"There has to be a point or line when someone is recognized as a repeat offender and consistently a face in the courtroom where they've got to do something to stop it," said attorney Marty Dolan.

Since the 2008 attack, Hall has fought to recapture the life she once knew. But it hasn't been easy.

She's moved out of the South Loop where the attack happened and moved in with a relative. She can't work and has hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

"Since this, I rarely leave my room," she said. "I can sit in my room all day and all night. I'm still emotionally messed up from this, not just physically."

Four years after a beating that doctors said very nearly took her life, Hall continues to struggle, while her attacker continues to travel through the revolving door of the Cook County justice system.

"Unbelievable, I can't believe it," Hall said. "What does this man have to do, kill someone before they do something about it?"

King is not currently listed as an inmate in any Illinois Prison or the Cook County Jail.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says, "Unfortunately, as our laws currently exist in Illinois, the vast majority of criminal offenders receive day-for-day credit for the sentences that are imposed upon them which cuts their court-ordered sentences in half. In my view the Illinois legislature should revisit our truth in sentencing laws."

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