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Justice too slow? Judge, sheriff clash
COUNTY JAIL | 82 inmates await trial more than 4 years

Friday, November 09, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON AND ERIC HERMAN

It has been eight years since a homeless man was charged with kidnapping a Wisconsin woman, slashing her throat and killing her.
Decedrick Walker, 29, has spent every day since in the Cook County Jail, awaiting trial. He has been in the jail longer than any other inmate yet to stand trial.
Walker is one of 82 jail inmates who have been waiting more than four years to have their cases heard -- a statistic that caused County Board members to bring in Chief Judge Tim Evans, State's Attorney Richard Devine and Sheriff Tom Dart to discuss perceived delays in the county's judicial system.
Tensions flared between Dart and Evans, as Dart spoke of employees "not doing their job" and of the need to "make life hard on them," repeating earlier references to some judges shirking their responsibility.
Evans shot back, defending the judges and saying that "rushing is not the key" in a case. Rather, he said, "justice is the key," no matter how long it takes.
Since his arrest, Walker has been charged with 11 more felonies, including fighting in jail and spitting at judges. Early in his murder case, his defense lawyers tried to have the indictment dismissed. After losing, they went to the Appellate Court and later the Illinois Supreme Court. That took about five years, a source close to the case said. One prosecutor said Walker could go to trial early next year.
Larry Wells, 34, has been in jail since 2000, charged with two murders. His lawyer, assistant public defender Marijane Placek, said one of Wells' original lawyers left the case to become a judge. Both the prosecution and the defense have sought continuances, she said.
"What people don't realize is how long it takes to get ready for a death-penalty case," Placek said.
Ruling delays case
Andre Crawford, 45, has also been in jail since 2000, charged with killing 11 women. Prosecutors wanted to introduce evidence of all of his alleged crimes at his first murder trial for one of the slayings. When a judge ruled against them, prosecutors appealed, delaying the case, said defense lawyer Mark Lyon.
"I don't want my client sitting in jail for that kind of time. But I'm not faulting the prosecution or the judge on this," Lyon said.


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