In reviewing the claims, we must follow the statute and the previous decisions of the Court and apply the law to the facts of each claim. In order to make sure we are following the statute and the court decisions, we review police reports and talk to the victim. If charges have been filed, we talk to the State's Attorney's Office. As we take these steps, we are trying to determine whether the victim meets the statutory criteria for the Court to award compensation. Among the factors we must consider are: whether the crime was timely reported, whether the victim cooperated with law enforcement and the prosecutors, and whether the victim was engaged in misconduct at the time of the crime that contributed to the victim's injuries or death.
Because we must follow the previous decisions of the court interpreting the statute, I wanted to provide you with summaries of a few cases in which the court considered whether the victim's previous conduct requires denying the claim. In these cases, the court considered facts such as whether the victim was a gang member or whether the victim had a prior conviction.
In re Leyva, 48 Ill. Ct. Cl. 659 (1996): In this case, the Court of Claims had entered a prior Order denying the claim based on a finding that the claimant's grandson contributed to his death by being a member of a rival gang. Leyva, 48 Ill. Ct. Cl. at 660. After a hearing, the Court of Claims reversed that prior Order and held that the claimant's grandson, who was a former gang member, was entitled to compensation under the act. The Court based this decision on the facts that at the time of his death, he was no longer a gang member and he did nothing to provoke his death like flashing gang signs, wearing gang clothing, or shouting gang slogans. Leyva, 48 Ill. Ct. Cl. at 661. Therefore, the Court of Claims awarded funeral expenses. (The Court denied Loss of Support expenses because the claimant failed to substantiate that portion of her claim)
In re APPLICATION OF BARBARA FREEMAN, 52 Ill. Ct. Cl. 674 (2000): In this case, the Court of Claims had entered a prior order denying the claim based on a finding that the claimant's son was a gang member and contributed to his death. FREEMAN, 52 Ill. Ct. Cl. at 676. After a hearing, the Court of Claims reversed that prior decision and held that none of the evidence presented indicated that the victim was a gang member or did anything to provoke or cause his death at the time he was shot. The Court of Claims, therefore, awarded funeral/burial expenses to the claimant. Id. at 677.
In re Application of DeBartolo, Benedetti & Eisenhaur, 36 Ill. Ct. Cl. 442 (1982): In this case, the Court of Claims affirmed its award of compensation for loss of support and redistributed its award for funeral expenses based on a finding that the claimant's son did not contribute to his death. DeBartolo, 36 Ill. Ct. Cl. at 444. In considering whether the claimant was eligible for compensation, the Court held that although drugs were found by the victim, he had a history of drug abuse, and he was convicted of robbing a bank, there was no evidence that connected the drugs to the victim, the victim's history, and conviction to the cause of his death. Id.
When reviewing claims, we also must make a recommendation to the Court regarding the amount to be awarded to a victim. To determine the amount, we review bills, death certificates, receipts, and other documentation to support the expense for which payment is sought. We then verify that the expenses were actually incurred and are directly related to the crime.
I want to emphasize that claimants are always welcome to contact us if they find bills or receipts that they did not give us in the first instance. We will reopen the case, work to verify the information and then submit the case again to the Court.
Funeral and burial amounts - how they're decided:
The law does not provide a specific amount or a range for these claims, but it does provide a maximum cap for these claims. As a result, as with other expenses, the law requires that we review all the bills relating to the funeral, including the bills from funeral homes/cemeteries and crematoriums, and verify the expenses with each of the entities. We also review life insurance information provided by the claimant. Based on all of this information, we are required to determine how much is compensable under the law and whether any of the life insurance proceeds must be taken as a deduction against any compensation for the expenses, as required by statute. Based on the information we have reviewed, we make a recommendation to the Court. The law limits the payment for funeral and burial expenses to $7,500.
Attorney General statement on Victim Fund decision process