Removing Barriers to Equity - SM's Story

May 26, 2022


 The CGLA criminal defense team is uniquely positioned to represent clients experiencing poverty who face new criminal charges and parole revocation hearings, and who could benefit from our holistic service model including social worker support. This is especially helpful to our clients when their parole revocation hearing is prompted by a new criminal charge. CGLA’s Criminal Defense Attorney Emelia Carroll first represented our client, SM, in his preliminary parole revocation hearing. He was being held in Cook County Jail on a parole hold pending a new gun possession case. After the preliminary parole hearing in which the hearing officer found probable cause that parole had been violated, SM got help from a family member to go through CGLA’s online intake.


When CGLA took over the representation of SM from the public defender’s office, SM was adamant that there was something very wrong with how the police had stopped him. Because the prosecution hadn’t provided the evidence, Emelia had to subpoena the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) for their dispatch recordings and body camera. The evidence revealed that SM was unlawfully stopped and searched by CPD. He did not match the description of who they were looking for. Still, because he is a Black man living in a high-crime neighborhood, the police blew past his reasonable expectation of privacy by searching his body. They found that SM was in possession of a gun, which he carried for protection while he went from his mother’s home to the convenience store.


Emelia requested a hearing to address the officer’s unlawful search ahead of schedule because SM was stuck in jail and Emelia had the evidence she needed. At the hearing, the prosecution insisted that the police search had been reasonable. The judge granted Emelia’s motion, holding that the officers had indeed unlawfully searched SM. With the evidence of gun possession suppressed, the prosecution was forced to dismiss the new criminal charge.


Emelia then turned to SM’s parole revocation hearing. Telling the whole truth to the Prison Review Board (PRB), SM testified that he carried a gun because of the violence he witnessed as a child. CGLA’s Social Worker, Emma Kunin, testified to the link between PTSD and gun carrying in Chicago, and how she is a resource for SM to work through those issues if his parole is resumed. The PRB reluctantly resumed SM’s parole, explaining that the decision was based on Emma’s testimony and ongoing work with SM.

Due to our representation of SM, he was released from custody with no pending criminal charges, returned to his job in home construction supporting his family, and is working on his mental health. He stays in touch with Emma and Emelia. He is starting a podcast where he brings neighboring community members together to talk about issues like violence prevention and community-building.