Meet the last person who’ll ever be ordered to pay cash to get out of Cook County jail

CHICAGO — Jamal Turner is the last person who will ever be ordered jailed in lieu of a cash bail payment in Cook County. He accomplished the dubious achievement during a Sunday evening court hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.

Judge Maryam Ahmad began the daily bond session hours earlier, at 12:30 p.m.

“Welcome to Central Bond Court,” Ahmad opened. “The final Central Bond Court for Cook County.”

Like the rest of Illinois, Cook County eliminated cash bail as of midnight today.

After reciting a routine, lengthy introduction to bond court and the 30-plus factors that judges were required to consider when setting bail conditions, Ahmad settled in for what became the cash bail system’s six-hour-and-seven-minute-long swan song.

Only men charged with felonies appeared before Ahmad. Dozens of them, charged with everything from first-degree murder to drug possession.

Of the 60-odd defendants who shuffled through her courtroom, Ahmad ordered about half to post some amount of money to get out of jail. Those deposit amounts ranged from $100 for an accused shoplifter to $100,000 for a man who allegedly robbed three victims at gunpoint in a South Side garage. Three men—two charged with murder and one accused of shooting a woman—were held without bail.

But the changes to come on Monday were top of mind for Catherine Stockslager, the assistant public defender who represented most of the defendants. At least three times during the marathon court session, Stockslager reminded Ahmad that a defendant’s situation would be different if he appeared in court after midnight.

“I’m aware of what happens tomorrow,” Ahmad assured Stockslager after one such hypothetical.

Starting Monday, new felony defendants will either be held without bail or released with no money down. But their release may come with special conditions, like electronic monitoring. Ahmad included an ankle monitor as a condition of release for 13 of the men who appeared before her on Sunday.

So, would Jamal Turner’s fate be different on Monday? It’s hard to say.

He had never been arrested before Saturday night.

As he headed off I-94 near Taylor Street, Turner found himself stuck in the middle of a Mexican Independence Day traffic jam. Chicago police were blocking traffic lanes and directing drivers away from downtown when Turner allegedly drove on the shoulder to pass vehicles. An officer directing traffic had to “move quickly” to avoid being struck by his car, said Danielle Levin, the prosecutor during his hearing.

Jamal Turner and the Leighton Criminal Courthouse | Cook County sheriff’s office; Stephen Hogan

But, according to Stockslager, officers instructed Turner to drive around other vehicles to clear the traffic lane. He denies that he tried to hit the officer.

Intentions notwithstanding, the officer jumped into another cop’s squad car, and they pursued Turner until he ran red lights and started driving into oncoming traffic on Halsted Street, Levin said. The officers ended their pursuit but eventually caught Turner after he became stuck in heavy traffic. While officers said they found a handgun wedged between his driver’s seat and center console, Turner is a concealed carry license holder.

Prosecutors charged him with aggravated assault of a police officer and aggravated fleeing, plus a handful of misdemeanors.

Would a judge operating under the new rules on Monday find Turner to be a threat to the community who should be jailed without bail? Would the judge send him home with an ankle monitor? Or would they just send him home?

Nobody knows.

But on Sunday, Judge Ahmad handed down the last cash bail order this county will likely ever see. And, for want of $500, Jamal Turner spent the night inside the Cook County jail.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com