Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has repeatedly blamed bail reforms and local judges for exacerbating gun violence by releasing defendants back onto the streets, but on Monday she took her rhetoric a step further, saying that people charged with violent crime should be kept in jail because only guilty people get charged with violent crimes.
The comments, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, were part of a longer harangue against the Cook County courts and bail reform efforts.
“We shouldn’t be locking up nonviolent individuals just because they can’t afford to pay bail. But, given the exacting standards that the state’s attorney has for charging a case, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, when those charges are brought, these people are guilty,” Lightfoot said. “Of course they’re entitled to a presumption of innocence. Of course they’re entitled to their day in court. But residents in our community are also entitled to safety from dangerous people, so we need to keep pressing the criminal courts to lock up violent dangerous people and not put them out on bail or electronic monitoring back into the very same communities where brave souls are mustering the courage to come forward and say, ‘this is the person who is responsible.'”
The comments outraged civil liberties advocates and public defenders in Chicago, and rightly so. They should offend anyone familiar with the American criminal justice system and why it places such an emphasis on the presumption of innocence: to force the government to prove its case and shield defendants from prejudice and demagoguery. Lightfoot’s statements are particularly absurd, given the enormous amount of taxpayer money Chicago has spent settling wrongful conviction lawsuits.