Judge did right thing by banning cellphones in courtrooms

So if federal security can do it, why can't Cook County? That's Dart's responsibility. And it's Preckwinkle's job to provide Dart the funds for court security.

Criminal Court Judge Peggy Chiampas runs a tight courtroom.

"If I hear a phone," said Chiampas, "the phone is mine and they will not get it back. ... People were using their phones in my courtroom to take photographs of themselves pointing down gang signs, of witnesses."

During one weekend bond hearing on a gang-related shooting, an alleged gunman's family was being particularly disruptive.

"Three individuals were taking photographs," she said. "I called them up (to the bench). They were using a female friend's phone, which they do because they're cowards."

She took the phone, scrolled through the photos, saw the gang signs, and took the phone. She also notified Evans.

"There's not a criminal judge who hasn't had a delay or setback because of cellphones in courtrooms," said Cook County Criminal Court Judge Evelyn Clay. "These are murders and armed robberies and rapes, and it's very different from civil courts where you may be talking about money."

She cited the 2008 murder case she presided over of Terrence Ligon, a 34-year-old gangster charged with murder in the shooting of a 4-year-old boy who was caught in gang crossfire.

Three jurors complained that someone snapped cellphone photos as they walked to their car. The news led to a mistrial, then a new trial, and Ligon was ultimately acquitted.

He, in turn, was shot to death in February 2009.

"Now as a result of this," said Clay, "we have another murderer out there."

So some politicians are in a snit. Some court visitors are upset, not being allowed to bring their precious cellphones.

But at least one man did his job.

Judge Tim Evans.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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