Supreme Court Gives Ford County Teens New Trial
By The Associated Press
The Illinois Supreme Court says an attorney for two boys accused of sexual abuse was wrong to worry about the truth of the charges and what was best for society.
Instead, he should have given the boys the strongest possible defense.
"Austin M." was 16 when he was accused of sexually abusing younger foster children in his adopted parents' home.
A court sentenced him to probation, but Austin says his lawyer acted improperly.
There are two types of attorneys appointed in cases involving juveniles: regular defense attorneys, who simply work to get their clients off; and guardians, who look out for the best interests of the child, even if that means going against what the child or parents want.
Jackie Bullard argued on behalf of Austin before the Supreme Court last year.
"Children like Austin, who have been charged with a crime, and face the same potential prison sentences that adults do, are entitled to defense attorneys," she said.
In a divided opinion, a majority of the justices agreed, finding that the boy's lawyer acted more as a guardian than a proper defense attorney.
The ruling involves a Ford County case in which two teenage boys were accused of abusing foster children in their home. When the defense didn't object to key evidence, one boy was found guilty.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial.