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Knowledghut

Is this a conflict-of-interest for the State?

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I would appreciate opinion as to whether or not a conflict-of-interest exists in a murder case due to the connection between the State's Attorney's office and the family of the victim.

 

Throughout the course of the case so far, the victim's wife has been given a lot of latitude in her movements in court. Each court appearance, she sits in the front audience row designated for court personnel and media only. The bailiffs do not direct her to sit elsewhere as they do with any member of the general public.  She also fairly frequently and without being censored by anyone walks up pass the bar (line of demarcation for attorneys only without permission) both before and during court to converse with individual SAs. She has also walked up to the Judge's clerk on occasion. I thought this a little strange, but since the victim was in the legal profession, I thought everyone was just giving her some sympathetic consideration.

 

Now, however, I have since seen this woman also appear in the audience of several different criminal defendants and in the company of the SA's Victim Advocate person and interacting with the victim families along with the Victim Advocate as if she is in training with the SA's Victim Advocate program or at least a volunteer in that program. If so, whether she is a volunteer or paid, does this create a conflict-of-interest for the State's Attorney with respect to this murder case? Her husband was well-known in the legal community but she was not in the profession and not previously involved with victim families.

 

The defense PD knows of her behavior in court and has not raised it as a issue but does not know of her association with other cases.

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I am not questioning her right to appear in court. I know she is entitled to attend the case as a victim.

 

What I question is whether or not her association with the County's Victim Advocate program creates a conflict for the State. I perceive that not only is she on first-hand basis with all the SA staff and perhaps providing some service to the families of other victims, but she is also privy to information from those families and the State which may be confidential.

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Doucar, can you elaborate why not? In IL victim advocate programs are funded and administered by the County SA offices, and conflicts appear to arise out of professional associations. I know this situation is unique, but why would it automatically be exempt?

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It is not mere contact I am pointing at; it is a work association. If an SA was the victim, would not the State have to pass the case to a special prosecutor to handle because the victim worked in their office? Why else do cases get assigned a special prosecutor?

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If an SA (I'm assuming State's Attorney) was the victim of a crime, then the prosecuting agency might farm it out to a special prosecutor instead of prosecuting the case directly. There is no statutory requirement that the prosecution do so, but obviously it would be smart to do it so as to prevent having to prosecute it twice (once before, and once after the likely appeal).

 

Where a victim does or does not travel about inside a court room is not indicative of any conflict. It might be material that the defense can comment on during trial and attempt to sway a jury to believe something, but there is no conflict based on what you mentioned.

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If an SA or employee of that office was the victim, then his/her colleagues would have a personal interest in seeing the murderer convicted.  Under the IL case law, that would be a conflict.  That the prosecutor is friendly and supportive of the victim's widow is NOT a conflict. 

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Hi @Knowledghut

 

Thanks for your question! Looks like you've already gotten some excellent direction from our legal community. I will agree that there does not appear to be a conflict of interest. This blog post describes the sort of conflicts of interest which arise in criminal cases -- typically where an attorney is somehow involved with both litigants in the case. What your describing may be more along the lines of a potential bias.

 

Let us know if you have additional questions for the community.

The FindLaw.com Team

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