The attorney for an 18-year-old man released on bail after being charged with first-degree murder said city prosecutors have twice failed to present the facts of the cases against his client to a judge.
Most suspects charged with murder - and many of those facing gun charges in general - can expect to be held without bond pending trial. But Brandon Mitchell, a Morrell Park teen arrested this year on attempted murder and murder charges in a span of six months, has walked out of jail on bail multiple times.
Attorney Howard Cardin said after Mitchell was arrested in July for attempted murder, prosecutors "refused" to provide facts about the case at a habeas corpus hearing, prompting Mitchell to get a bail of $50,000. The case was later dropped by city prosecutors.
When Mitchell was arrested last week for the June murder of 16-year-old Omar Johnson, Cardin says, his law partner representing Mitchell at the hearing believed that the victim from the earlier case had died, prompting new charges. That wasn't the case, but Cardin said Assistant State's Attorney David Chiu didn't dispute it at the bail review hearing.
Believing it was the same case, District Court Judge Askew W. Gatewood Jr. set the same bond - $50,000.
According to Cardin, another state's attorney realized the error, and asked for Mitchell to be brought back in for another hearing. Cardin said Gatewood asked the two sides to work it out - the state wanted $500,000, and Cardin refused. Gatewood then set the bail at $250,000.
"Based on Judge Gatewood's comment, he said this could very well be a no bond situation, but [Mitchell]'s behavior [while out on bail on the previous two occasions] certainly dictated that he was not a risk of flight," Cardin said.
Gatewood declined to comment Friday in an e-mail response to a reporter's questions. The State's Attorney's Office, meanwhile, through spokesman Mark Cheshire, said Thursday that they advocated for no bond at "every stage," which Cardin's account contradicts.
Cardin says his client is innocent of the new charges, and that his neighborhood supports him. To post his $250,000 bond, various neighbors posted their property, records show.
And broadly, Cardin says judges can be too heavy-handed when it comes to bail. He acknowledges that under normal circumstances, his client would be in jail right now. "But I don't know if that's fair," he said. He's an advocate for home detention, he said.
The victim's grandmother, Sheila Anderson, contacted The Sun on Thursday, furious that the suspect in her grandson's death was walking free. Johnson did not have a juvenile record, according to sources, and his relatives said he regularly attended an after-school mission program at a local church.
“I'm very angry. I'm very upset, and I'm very mad,” Sheila Anderson said. “Tell me how he got a bail. No bail means no bail. There's been too many mixups in this case. Something is not right with this case.”
Anderson wondered if Mitchell, who is white, has received different treatment because of his race.
“I’m at the point where I think it’s a racial issue,” she said. “I don’t think with anyone else that mistake would have been made.”
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