Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, August 19, 2019

How many other ‘Judge Cooks’ are out there?

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By The Madison County Record | Jul 17, 2019


“My 6 amendment rights was violated due to me not having a fair trial due to the fact my judge was under the influence of drugs.”

That was the claim made by Marvin Parker, who in 2011 was convicted of armed violence, aggravated battery, and attempted armed robbery and sentenced by St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook to 29 years in prison. 

Whether Parker’s constitutional rights were violated or not is yet to be determined, but the Sixth Amendment does enshrine this guarantee: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Such guaranteed rights will be upheld by the presiding magistrate, if said judge is competent and fully conscious during the proceedings. There’s the rub.

In 2013, two years after Parker’s conviction, Judge Cook himself pled guilty to heroin possession and received a sentence of two years in prison: 27 years less than what Cook gave to Parker, even though Cook was implicated in the drug-overdose death of a fellow jurist.

Fifth District appellate judges reversed Cook three times in the four months after his sentencing – twice for failing to give proper consideration to motions from prisoners claiming incompetent counsel. Circuit Judge Robert Haida overturned two murder convictions obtained in Cook’s courtroom.

Just this month, the Fifth District appellate court ruled that a St. Clair County judge must give Parker a chance to show that Cook’s heroin addiction deprived him of a fair trial.

How many of Cook’s other decisions will be challenged and reversed? How many other defendants were subjected to unjust justice? How many other “Judge Cooks” are still on the bench?

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