Sunday, Mar 9, 2014
State's Attorney Accused of Unprofessional Conduct
MARION -- Williamson County State's Attorney Chuck Garnati faces possible disciplinary action from the Illinois Supreme Court.
The state commission that oversees attorney conduct has filed a formal complaint accusing the longtime prosecutor of unprofessional conduct.
The complaint in regards to racially charged remarks Garnati made in the murder trial of Marcus Marshall three years ago. Marshall was convicted of shooting and killing LaQuinn Hudson and sentenced to 85 years in prison.
But it's what Garnati said in his opening and closing arguments that's come back to haunt him. Marshall will get a new trial, and for the first time in his 35 year legal career, Garnati may face serious discipline from the state. Marshall's family says they're happy to see the prosecutor held accountable.
"I didn't feel like it was, that he was done right," said Arber Marshall, Marcus' aunt.
The three-page formal complaint by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commssion proves what Arber believed all along. Some of what Williamson County State's Attorney Chuck Garnati said in her nephew's 2011 murder trial was out of line.
"I was totally petrified," Arber said, "I was like, I can't believe he said that."
The ARDC complaint was released in early December. It says Garnati violated four rules of professional conduct. At issue are comments the prosecutor made about the "culture of the black community in Marion" while trying to explain to the all-white jury why two witnesses wavered on their stories.
The complaint cites quotes from the court transcript including, "...most of these people were raised to believe that the police and prosecutors are the enemy..." and "...in our white world ladies and gentlemen..."
"This was the most blatant appeal to prejudice I've ever seen," said Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg.
Greenberg represented Marshall in his appeal and calls Garnati's choice of words disgusting. He said he hopes the Supreme Court delivers the harshest punishment possible.
"The man should never, ever practice law again, in my opinion," aid Greenberg, "The fact that he is the state's attorney of a county and making charging decisions that affect people's lives, and he has these views makes him unfit for the position."
Arber would like to see Garnati step down as state's attorney.
The state commission found Garnati's comments weren't supported by evidence and "served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice."
At the time of Marshall's conviction, Garnati stood by the verdict.
"He was given a fair trail. There is no doubt in my mind," said Garnati in a September 2011 interview.
But two years later, Garnati filed a confession of error admitting Marshall deserved a new trial. An appeals court agreed.
Arber hopes this time, things will be different for her nephew.
"To be treated right and have a fair trial," she told News 3, "Everybody deserves a chance."
Garnati has until Dec. 24 to answer the complaint. He can either agree with it an accept a sanction or take it to a trial before a three-member hearing board. Garnati did not respond to our calls for comment this week.
The Supreme Court has the final say on any type of attorney discipline. Punishments range from a written reprimand, suspension of a law license, or disbarment.
Family members say Marcus Marshall's new trial will be sometime early next year.
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