On Thursday, a herd of reporters from every major media outlet in Chicago descended on the Cook County courthouse in Maywood for the bond hearing of a mother and godmother charged with murdering a teenager with severe autism. That was the story that made it on the news Wednesday night and into the newspapers Thursday morning. What doesn't regularly make headlines is the parade of people hauled before bond court judges across the county on charges ranging from criminal mischief to murder.
Let's back up. I used to think bond court at the main Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California was just about the most depressing place in our area. Now I'm pretty sure the satellite site in Maywood takes the prize. The courtroom itself is in the basement and no bigger than a double wide mobile home. Families of people in custody have to wait in the hallway outside for a deputy sheriff to call the name of the next defendant so they can scurry into the cramped courtroom and get a quick glance at the back of their loved one's head before he or she is hauled back to the lock-up.
On this day, court proceedings originally scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. were delayed until 9:30... and then 10 a.m. Once the cases are called, you get a true understanding of the underbelly of our community. A man charged with exposing himself to two young kids as they played at a park in Brookfield. "He asked the children if they wanted to see his penis... three times," declared the prosecutor. "Then he tried to run down [with his car] someone who was trying to help."
A young, clearly inexperienced law clerk (he didn't even have a full fledged public defender next to him) spoke up to ask the judge for a low bond. "He's 27 years old, lives with his fiancee and has a bachelor's degree in economics from his native Ukraine," she said. "$10,000 bond, no contact with kids," the judge barked back. Next case.
Deputies brought in a rather stout defendant with short hair and glasses who was charged with intimidating a witness. "Mr. Williams is 24 years old..." the public defender-in-training began. "Um, I'm a girl," the defendant corrected. "$20,000 bond, no contact with witnesses," the judge said. Call the next case.
That was just one hour, in one courtroom. And that was before the mom and godmother accused of murder were led in front of the judge. The details of their case make you shake your head all over again.