Local Elections

Chris Kennedy, Lake County State's Attorney

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Candidate Full Name: Chris Kennedy

Office: State's Attorney of Lake County

Party: Democrat

Email Address: info@chriskennedy2012.com

Web Site: www.ChrisKennedy2012.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChrisKennedy2012

Campaign Name: Citizens for Chris Kennedy

Campaign Office Mailing Address: P.O. Box 312, Lake Bluff, IL 60044

Phone: (224) 221-0925

Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)

1. Do you support marijuana reform laws? Why?

I do not support decriminalization of marijuana and will enforce the laws as written. I do support limiting the taxpayer burden relating to the prosecution of these cases, which may be accomplished by various means, including: 1) the use of deferred prosecution or other diversionary program to allow first-time, low-level possessors to avoid having a criminal record; 2) referrals to drug court for therapeutic intensive monitoring designed to eliminate addiction and related behaviors, which can help prevent recurrence; and, 3) informed prosecutorial discretion, applying sound judgment on a case-by-case basis, so that individual cases are handled with an appropriate focus on prevention and committing resources where they are most needed.

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?

Yes, I believe that the ban was appropriate under the circumstances, in which many people sentenced to death in Illinois were later found to have been innocent. Advances in scientific evidence, especially DNA, along with various studies, have led to greater awareness of flaws in the system that can lead to injustice. I have been endorsed by Tom Sullivan, former U.S. Attorney and Chair of the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee -- I strongly favor the implementation of many reforms contained in the Committee's report, including the increase in use of electronic recordings of custodial interrogations, improvement in eyewitness identifications, safeguards regarding incentivized witnesses ("jailhouse snitches"), and other best practices. Note: I have been in favor of the death penalty in the past, including the case in which my cousin was randomly abducted and murdered by a career criminal who was on the run from another murder he committed. In certain cases, such as mass murderers and other limited circumstances with very significant safeguards in place, capital punishment may again be appropriately utilized in Illinois.

3. What have you done (or will do) to ensure wrongful convictions don't occur?

For over a year, I have called for serious and specific changes in the way this office handles high profile cases involving DNA evidence. I am a former prosecutor, but I have handled defense cases and I have practiced extensively in other systems. I have stood up to public officials (in both parties) throughout my career, and have been an outsider to the party holding this office for the last 32 years. I am committed to increasing the professionalism of the office and removing political and other extraneous considerations from the decision-making process. And I remain the only candidate willing to confront the causes of these dramatic injustices head-on.

Immediately upon taking office, I will create a Conviction Integrity Unit to correct and prevent the rash of wrongful convictions that have plagued our county. Combined with personal leadership, this structural change will help drive cultural change in an office that has become national news for all the wrong reasons. My Conviction Integrity Unit will also focus on using the very best practices available to prosecutors anywhere in the nation.

This Unit will:

  • Independently investigate and make recommendations on certain challenged convictions.
  • Immediately prosecute cold cases where evidence suggests different, or additional, perpetrators.
  • Oversee ongoing cases, investigations, and training to ensure that evidence is properly collected, tested and evaluated, at the earliest opportunity in every case.
  • Serve as an incubator for "best practices," by setting responsible standards for the pursuit and conviction of perpetrators of violent crime.

The Unit would consist of a prosecutor without any ties to the original convictions, who would report directly to me and work with a senior investigator, who also has no ties to the cases. The Conviction Integrity Unit would additionally utilize the advice of an outside advisory board comprised of leading experts in criminal justice, including legal scholars and former prosecutors, who would voluntarily serve and advise on best practices. Unlike other ideas being floated, this advisory board would not make determinations or review specific cases, as potential conflicts of interest and other ethical and practical issues simply make that proposal unrealistic and ineffective.

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?

If an offender is not a danger to the community and is likely to return to court, the judge in bond court will typically assign either a low bond or a recognizance bond, in which no money is posted, thus relieving jail capacity and taxpayer costs. I am in favor of increasing the use of electronic monitoring in many cases. However, if a person has any likelihood of committing further offenses, past history of violence or failing to return to court, or otherwise poses a danger to an individual or to the greater community, I will require my Assistant State's Attorneys to oppose releasing that defendant to the general public.

5. Do you support some type of merit selection of judges as recommended by the Chicago Bar Association? Why or why not?

Yes. Partisan politics should be removed from the judicial selection process to the greatest extent possible.

6. Given cuts to the public defender program, what will your office do to ensure those without means get a fair trial?

It is a prosecutor's ethical duty to ensure that justice is done. This includes ensuring that defendants' rights are upheld. It is in the best interests of everyone in society that convictions are not reversed because of Constitutional violations or other errors. The public defender's office in Lake County is staffed with many highly skilled, dedicated attorneys. They require sufficient resources to provide defendants with a competent defense, and I will advocate with the judges of the 19th Circuit to ensure the system is fair for indigent defendants, not just for those with the resources to obtain private counsel. That being said, I will also advocate for judges in all cases to limit appointment of the public defender to only those defendants who properly meet the definition of indigency, which would also serve to reduce unnecessary taxpayer costs. Additionally, implementing the reforms I have called for in my Blueprint for Justice, including the Conviction Integrity Unit, will make a tremendous difference in ensuring that justice is done in all cases in Lake County.

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