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Court Stalls Illinois Resentencing of Domestic-Violence Survivors

A November court ruling may significantly reduce the number of women who can benefit from a new Illinois law, designed to release some domestic-violence survivors whose actions were driven by defense of self and/or histories of abuse, the Associated Press reports. Women who have experienced abuse are much more likely to be incarcerated than those who have not. The new Illinois law is intended to address that. Then in late November, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in People vs. Angela Wells that Wells, a domestic-violence survivor, was ineligible for resentencing because she had taken a plea deal.

Crystal Martinez, a 31-year-old mother of five and a human-trafficking survivor whose case is profiled by the Associated Press, had also pleaded guilty, to shooting a man who was beating his girlfriend. But she was allowed to proceed, because her resentencing hearing was already scheduled when the high court made its ruling. More than a dozen organizations, including the Illinois State Rifle Association, backed her sentence reduction, requested through a letter to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Their efforts were successful: Martinez was resentenced and will be released in May. But unless new legislation is passed or the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Wells, Cook County will not be able to consider the resentencing petitions of defendants like her, who pleaded guilty, said Michelle Mbekeani of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the prosecuting arm of Illinois’ most populous county.

“Going forward, Wells ties everyone’s hands,” Mbekeani said.


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