As a new set of judges took over bond court Monday, the wheels of justice turned just slightly more slowly at the Cook County Criminal Court Building.
With a half-dozen new judges appointed to preside in bond court — now called the Pre-Trial Division — the usually brisk pace of bond hearings slowed. In what had been called Central Bond Court, Judge Michael Clancy dispatched with a docket of about 30 felony defendants and sundry warrant arrests in about two hours. With the shorter roll call in the courtroom where murders and sex crimes are handled, Judge David Navarro moved swiftly through a docket that required him to set bond in only one case.
The average of about four minutes per defendant in Clancy’s courtroom on Monday was well above the 100 seconds-per-case rate cited in a study of bond court last year by the Sheriff’s Department, though the outcomes weren’t markedly different for defendants on the first day of the new policy.
But minor delays might have been the only noticeable difference for defendants, even as Chief Judge Timothy Evans last week announced he was replacing six longtime bond court judges, as part of a push to retool the way the criminal courts apply cash bond. Evans also ordered that, effective Monday, judges were to set bond amounts that defendants could afford to pay — defendants who pose a danger to the community were to be held without bond — citing state law that cash bond be a last resort.
Clancy assigned cash bond to 12 of the defendants in front of him, a higher rate than the average in the Sheriff’s 2016 study, but only seven had bond amounts higher than what they said they could pay. Those getting locked up included a 49-year-0ld man arrested for his fourth DUI and another man who was arrested on a gun charge while already out on bond for a drug charge.
In Navarro’s lone bond ruling, prosecutors said 18-year-old Anthony Culpepper on Saturday shot and killed 21-year-old Maurice King in Gage Park, before driving off in King’s car. Assistant State’s Attorney Julia Ramirez said King survived long enough to tell witnesses, and police, that it was Culpepper who shot him, and Culpepper was arrested hours after the shooting, after police found him driving in King’s car.
“I do not believe bond in any amount would be appropriate at this time,” Navarro said. “This court finds the defendant does post a real and present threat to the physical safety of the community.”
Critics of the cash bond system — including Evans, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx — have argued that the system arbitrarily leaves poor defendants stuck behind bars for want of relatively small amounts of cash needed to bail out on minor charges.