New Public Defender Comes Out Swinging, Cites ‘Broken Justice System’

By Steve Schmadeke
Chicago Tribune.


Amy Campanelli says her blood pressure began to rise on a recent Monday as she read that Cook County prosecutors had sought a $1 million bail for a father whose 6-year-old son had killed his younger brother with his dad’s gun.

For Campanelli, the new head of the county public defender’s office, in the past a relatively low-profile position, the case marked just the latest example of prosecutorial overreach, she told the Tribune.

“A million-dollar bond?” Campanelli said incredulously, drawing out each syllable, as she explained such bonds are typically reserved for gang members who kill innocents on the streets. “I was fuming.”

The father had told authorities he bought the gun for protection for himself and his family. A former gang member, he was forced to testify by prosecutors against a gang member in a double murder trial, court records show. The father had left the gun on top of a refrigerator, warning his oldest son not to touch it. A judge ended up setting the bond at $75,000.

Campanelli took aim at State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who is in the midst of a re-election fight.

“I should’ve called her and said, ‘Who the hell do you think you are? This is outrageous. You want to talk at these panels, you want to say all this stuff you’re doing and then your (assistant) state’s attorney asks for a million-dollar bond on this case?'” she said.

“‘Because you don’t think this guy should go to the funeral for his 3-year-old? You think he should be locked up and not working his job because his own child is dead? What kind of human being are you?'”

Just six months in her appointed post, Campanelli has burst onto the scene, taking a much higher profile than any Cook County public defender in decades, speaking out on behalf of her office and the importance of public defenders everywhere, as well as what she calls the county’s “broken” criminal justice system.

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