Candidate Full Name: Mike Nerheim
Office: Lake County State's Attorney
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: www.mikenerheim2012.com
Campaign Name: Citizens to Elect Mike Nerheim
Campaign Office Mailing Address: 438 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan, IL 60085
Phone: (224) 848-2012
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
1. Do you support marijuana reform laws? Why?
The legislature already has put in place graduated sentencing ranges, which allow first-time offenders to be treated without having a conviction on their record. As State's Attorney, one of the programs I will bring to Lake County is an Alternative Prosecution Program for first-time non-violent offenders to earn a second chance to make good, and to better benefit the community. The self-funded program is meant to give first-time non-violent offenders the opportunity to keep a conviction from being permanently entered on their record, relieve overcrowding in the Lake County jail, reduce caseloads in the courtrooms and establish mandatory restitution payments to crime victims. I believe our limited jail space should be reserved for those who commit violent or more serious crimes.
2. Do you agree with the General Assembly passing a bill and Governor Quinn signing it, to ban the death penalty in Illinois? Why or why not?
Remembering that the bill Governor Quinn signed was done so during a time when there was a moratorium on the death penalty and given the issues taking place at the time, I believe it was the right thing to do. I also think it's appropriate to look at what we learned and the findings from the commission, and what we as State's Attorneys can do to ensure defendants are given a fair trial. I believe that there are rare circumstances where, after reviewing all of the evidence, the amount of evidence, and the weight of evidence, there are situations where that ultimate penalty may be appropriate--especially in the case of those who kill police officers or children, or in the case of individuals like Alton Coleman who killed eight people throughout the Midwest.
3. What have you done (or will do) to ensure wrongful convictions don't occur?
During my time as a Lake County prosecutor, I personally handled every type of criminal case, including thousands of serious felonies. I have conducted hundreds of trials. I've spent countless hours talking to victims and their families in cases involving juvenile sex crimes, drugs, rape, and murder. I have interviewed hundreds of witnesses to crimes. I have sat with victims and their families and listened to their stories.
In addition to being an experienced prosecutor, I also bring years of experience as a defense attorney in private practice, as partner in a local law firm that handles criminal and civil cases. I have represented numerous defendants to ensure that their rights were upheld.
I have been appointed by the Lake County courts to investigate post-conviction issues pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction laws. I've argued post-conviction petitions on behalf of indigent defendants in defense of their constitutional rights. I'm also a court-appointed conflict counsel for indigent defendants.
I've used DNA as a prosecutor and defense attorney, and teach DNA and the laws of evidence as a faculty member at Columbia College of Missouri. I not only understand the latest DNA evidence technology, but also teach it.
My experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney makes me uniquely qualified to provide the kind of leadership and direction that the State's Attorney must have, by focusing equally on the rights and needs of victims and fair treatment for those accused of crimes. The job of a prosecutor should be to seek justice.
As candidate for Lake County State's Attorney, I am committed to justice and bringing change to the Lake County State's Attorney's Office, including ensuring wrongful convictions never happen. The pursuit of justice begins with determining the truth, requires an open and ongoing dialogue, and a willingness to act based on hard facts and solid evidence.
My platform has been clear from the day I announced more than one year ago, about the importance of forensic sciences, as well as improving training for prosecutors and law enforcement.
I have outlined specific actions I'm prepared to take, including the creation of an independent Case Review Panel, developing protocols for the prosecution of cases with forensic evidence, and making changes to policies, procedures and training.
Throughout the campaign, I have been meeting with law enforcement, the legal community, victims, victims' rights advocates, civil rights leaders, the faith community and all community members that this effects--sharing perspectives to address the most common causes of wrongful convictions.
Being State's Attorney is about making tough decisions and one of the toughest decisions a State's Attorney has to make is deciding when not to charge cases where there is insufficient evidence. I have the courage and confidence to make these difficult decisions and stand behind them. I'm committed to being tough on crime and making sure everyone is treated fairly... and that justice is served.
Lake County should never have its prosecutorial motivations be in question. I pledge to bring an independent, fresh perspective and new ideas to the office of State's Attorney and to restore its reputation to one in which we can all be proud.
4. If a defendant is accused of a non-violent crime and cannot afford bail, he or she is locked up, at taxpayer expense. Is this okay? Or would you prefer an alternative such as releasing suspects in non-violent cases on electronic monitoring?
The purpose of bond is two-fold: ensure the community is safe and ensure the defendant will return to court.
The legislature has set forth factors a judge is to look at in setting a bond. Some of these factors include the type of crime, the number of previous convictions, and the defendant's ability to pay. If someone has no criminal history, is charged with a non-violent crime, and will return to court, I will advocate that he or she be released on pre-trial supervision, as I have in the past as both a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
5. Do you support some type of merit selection of judges as recommended by the Chicago Bar Association? Why or why not?
Lake County has a judicial selection and retention committee. Merit has been and should continue to be part of the judicial selection process.
6. Given cuts to the public defender program, what will your office do to ensure those without means get a fair trial?
I will work with the Lake County Board to make sure the Public Defender's Office is properly staffed. In addition, I will work with the 19th Judicial Circuit to ensure that they retain top-notch conflict attorneys. I'll remain a member of the Lake County Bar Association's Criminal Law Committee to help ensure that the Assistant Public Defenders are properly trained.
The Lake County Public Defender's Office is staffed with competent attorneys who provide top-notch legal representation to the indigent. I understand indigent defendant's needs and concerns. My background and experience includes having been appointed by the Lake County Courts to represent indigent defendants to investigate post-conviction issues and argue post-conviction petitions in defense of their constitutional rights, and as a court-appointed conflict counsel.
I will work with the 19th Judicial Circuit to ensure that the judges, when appointing a public defender, are seriously scrutinizing applications for public defender representation to ensure only the truly indigent are supplied with a public defender.
The job of a prosecutor is to seek justice, and part of seeking justice is to ensure that everybody is treated fairly, including victims, defendants, witnesses, business owners and law enforcement. My experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney gives me the ability to view both sides to ensure fairness, integrity and justice for all.