Blogs | Law Office of Jack L Zaremba


Appeals Court Upholds Verdict in “Sleeping Judge” Case

Joliet criminal attorney

During a criminal trial , the judge is responsible for the things that go on in his or her courtroom. He or she oversees the proceedings, maintains order, rules on evidentiary objections, and ensures that the details of the case are properly recorded. But, what if the judge does not appear to be in complete control? What if he or she, for example, were to fall asleep during the proceedings? Would the defendant in such a case have grounds to ask for a new trial? An appeals court in Illinois was recently asked to determine the answers to such questions.

Unusual Circumstances

Back in 2014, a Whiteside County courtroom was the setting for the trial of a man accused of numerous counts of first-degree murder. During the course of the trial, there were several instances where the lights in the courtroom were dimmed so that video depositions and evidence could be presented and heard. On at least one those occasions, the presiding judge dozed off while video evidence was being shown and, according to court documents, had to be poked awake by a court clerk.

The defendant’s attorney asked the court to make a note of what had happened for the record. The next day, the defense orally motioned for a declaration of a mistrial, but the court declined, reasoning that the judge falling asleep was not “anything fundamental that affect[ed] this Defendant’s rights.”

The trial continued, and the defendant was convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison. The defendant immediately asked for a new trial and was refused, so a formal appeal was filed.

Structural and Harmless Errors

The defendant’s appeal claimed that the judge falling asleep constituted a per se reversible error. A per se reversible error is a procedural mistake that is so substantial that it creates the presumption of prejudice. The appellate court acknowledged that a mistrial should generally be awarded when a mistake occurs that affects “the fundamental fairness of the trial,” and an automatic reversal of the conviction would be appropriate if the error was considered to be structural. In this case, however, the appeals court did not hold the judge’s sleeping to be a structural error or a per se reversible error. Instead, the issue was subject to harmless error analysis.

If a mistake at trial is found to be harmless to the overall nature of the case and the rights of the defendant, it may be effectively ignored. In this case, the defendant was convicted due to overwhelming physical evidence. Additionally, the judge was not the trier of fact; that responsibility fell on the jury. Finally, there was no indication that the judge was required to rule on evidentiary objections or any other issue at that the time that he was asleep, meaning that his unintentional nap changed nothing about the proceedings. The appellate court affirmed the denial of a mistrial and upheld the defendant’s conviction.

Call Us for Help

While you may be wondering how anyone could fall asleep during a murder trial, strange things can and do happen in the courtroom. If you or someone you love has been convicted under unusual circumstances, you may have grounds to file an appeal, but you need to act quickly. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

What Type of Real Estate Investment Should You Make?

Joliet will county real estate attorney

If you are considering investing in real estate , understanding the types of available real estate and the kind of investments you can make is instrumental in ensuring that your investments are financially sound and right for you.

The type of real estate investment you should make is not only dependent on your finances and the location of the property, but also on whether or not you are seeking to attain viable income from the investment. All real estate investments fall under one of two categories : non-income-producing investments and income-producing investments. Non-income-producing investments include houses and vacation homes, while income-producing investments include commercial property such as retail, office, and industrial property.

Real estate investments can be further subdivided into several different types:

1. Commercial real estate investment - An income-producing investment, commercial real estate refers to properties such as office buildings and industrial parks. Those interested in commercial real estate investment can purchase or construct a building and lease the offices out to businesses.

2. Residential real estate investment - This type of investment refers to houses, apartment buildings, condos, and vacation properties. Individuals or families pay the owners of these properties to live in them.

3. Industrial real estate investment - An industrial real estate investment refers to a facility or building which customers use for a special purpose. A storage unit is one example of industrial real estate.

4. Retail real estate investment - Investing in shopping malls and retail stores is referred to as retail real estate investment. The owner of retail real estate may receive a percentage of their tenants’ sales or profits in addition to rent.

5. Mixed-use real estate investment - This type of investment refers to properties that combine multiple types of real estate. For example, a pizza restaurant located underneath three apartments is one example of a mixed-use building, since the property was developed for both commercial and residential uses.

6. Real estate investment trusts (REIT) - If an individual would like to avoid handling properties by themselves, he or she has the option of investing through a real estate investment trust. A REIT investment is the process of purchasing shares of a company that owns real estate and administers its income as dividends.

Contact a Joliet Real Estate Lawyer

Whether you are making a real estate investment, purchasing your first home, or are interested in leasing commercial properties, Attorney Ann Zaremba can help you. From negotiations to developing a contract, our Will County real estate attorney can guide you throughout the process of all real estate transactions. Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba by calling 815-740-4025.

Some Health Systems Are Hesitant to Recommend Medical Marijuana

Joliet marijuana attorney

A recent post on this blog talked a little about national trends and local efforts regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana . While several lawmakers in Illinois have begun the process of trying to legalize recreational use of the drug, only approved medical use is currently legal under state law. The state’s medical marijuana program currently includes more than 23,000 registered patients , but many believe the number could be higher if certain doctors and health systems were more inclined to recommend cannabis for approved conditions.

Qualification Requirements

In order to qualify for participation in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in Illinois, a patient must be diagnosed with one of about 40 specified debilitating medical conditions . These conditions include various forms of cancer, as well as HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

The registration and approval process, however, requires more than a diagnosis. It requires the patient’s doctor to complete a form verifying that the physician is treating the patient for the qualifying condition. This is where many patients encounter problems.

An Inconsistent Approach

The form that is sent to the state is not a prescription for medical marijuana, but it seems that some doctors and health systems are hesitant to help patients in gaining access to the program. Perhaps the bigger problem is that the hesitance is discretionary rather than policy-based, which means that results may vary dramatically from one doctor to the next, even within the same hospital system.

For example, a spokesperson for Rush Copley Medical Group, a health system associated with Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, told the Northwest Herald that the group “has no specific policy prohibiting the signing of medical marijuana certificates,” but their doctors are “highly discouraged” from signing them.” The spokesperson cited lack of medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of cannabis in treating patients and lax regulatory control over the potency and quality of the marijuana.

Other medical groups in the region would not give a definitive answer on their policies about doctors signing the certificates. The results, in many cases, are frustration and confusion among patients who are only looking for relief from their afflictions.

The Importance of Compliance

While the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense in Illinois, many who use the drug for medicinal purposes often acquire and possess much more than that. A person who possesses more than 10 grams without a valid medical program participation card could face criminal prosecution, with penalties including hefty fines and possible jail time. If you or someone you love has been charged, contact an experienced Joliet drug crimes defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.


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