Judge in Bobby Cann Case Didn’t Grant SA’s Request to Freeze Proceedings

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A man rides by the memorial to Bobby Cann in a new curb-protected bike lane on Clybourn. Photo: John Greenfield

At a hearing this morning in the case against the driver who killed cyclist Bobby Cann, the judge didn’t grant a motion by the prosecutor to put all court proceedings on hold until the Illinois Appellate Court decides whether homicide charges against the defendant were valid.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street when Ryne San Hamel, 28, fatally struck him while allegedly drunk and speeding. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, as well as misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

At a hearing last month, Judge William Hooks dismissed the homicide charge, agreeing with defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. that the wording of the charge in the indictment was too vague for San Hamel’s team to adequately prepare his defense. However, Hooks dismissed the charge “without prejudice,” which means the Cook County State’s Attorney can potentially re-indict San Hamel with more specificity in the future. Moreover, the aggravated DUI charge carries a potentially stiffer sentence.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Maria Augustus told Hooks that the State’s Attorneys Office had filed an appeal of his decision to dismiss the homicide charge. The appeal will be heard by the Illinois Appellate Court. The ASA also told the judge that they had filed a motion to halt all other business relating to the case until the appellate court makes its decision.

At this morning’s hearing, the judge didn’t authorize the stay of business that the State’s Attorney’s Office had requested, according to Active Transportation Alliance education specialist Jason Jenkins, who attended. He added that six Cann family supporters were present. The next hearing was scheduled for Monday, September 21, at 10 a.m. at at the Cook County criminal courts, 2650 South California, in room 301.

The questions remains as to why the State’s Attorney’s Office is appealing Hooks’ decision to dismiss the homicide charge, rather than re-filing charge, and why they have moved to freeze the proceedings. It appears that these motions would delay the case from heading to trial. When I asked about the State’s Attorney’s strategy this afternoon, spokewoman Tandra Simonton said, “We won’t comment on a pending case, except to say that we’re moving forward with it.”

  • Eli N

    When I think of appeals, I think of appeals of trial verdicts, where there are new motions and arguments that take place before the appellate court, and which can drag on for years. Is the appeal of a dismissal similar? Or can we expect a quicker resolution?

  • BlueFairlane

    As somebody who is not a legal professional, my eyes tend to glaze over once you start getting to this level in the minutia of legal proceedings. I always tend to suspect that there are things about the process that seem absurd to me, (ie, somebody whose knowledge of law is firmly rooted in episodes of Law & Order) that are just part of the normal process to anybody who knows what’s going on. It would be interesting if you guys could get one of your lawyers–or maybe some other legal professional willing to write anonymously, if he feels like he has to–to do an actual analysis of what’s going on here from the standpoint of somebody who knows.

  • Here’s a response to your question from Cann family lawyer Kate Conway:

    “This is a good question. While civil matters and criminal matters are governed by different rules of appellate procedure, those relating to filing deadlines are the same (see Illinois Sup. Ct. R. 612). In other words, this would not be an expedited appeal, and it may take several months or longer to be decided.”

  • rohmen

    I posted the following on the last article: “If I had to speculate, and that’s all we can really do as I doubt the ASA will disclose why they did it, I’d say the appeal is driven by two things: (1) they want to set a standard that this type of indictment is sufficient to help both here and in future cases, and they feel this is a good case to take the issue up on; and/or (2) they probably feel there is no way to amend the indictment that won’t get thrown out. The wheels of justice move slowly, unfortunately.”

    I’m a legal professional with civil and criminal appeals experience, though I’m not a former ASA or defense attorney, and therefore am not a self-professed expert here. That said, this is part of the process, and a reason why so many people tune out on these cases unless they involve family or a personal connection. Bravo to streetsblog and the court advocates for keeping it in the spotlight.

  • While the strategy behind the SA taking these steps is unclear, from tracking the case, my impression is that they are taking the case seriously. It appears that these steps are part of a bigger game plan. Hopefully, details will emerge in the future.

  • rohmen

    I mean, just so people understand how the converse would have worked, this is potentially would have happened.

    The ASA files an amended indictment. Defendant files a renewed motion to dismiss (probably has at least 30 days to do so, but I’m not going to do the leg work to check), A briefing schedule is then set, with the state given time to respond and the defendant time to reply (at least another 30 days for the briefing, potentially even more based on schedules). An oral argument is set (could be another 30 days before the court can do it). Court then rules on the spot after the hearing, or takes matter under advisement for ruling at the next status (could be another 30 days). Then lets say the court dismisses again. You’re now potentially 4 months or so further down the road and still filing an appeal.

    I just say the above to note amending the charges wouldn’t necessarily have meant things advanced any quicker–or even advanced at all.

  • BlueFairlane

    This all makes a lot of sense and is good to have in mind. Thanks for this information.

  • Eli N

    Thanks for looking into this.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

An Update on the Bobby Cann Case

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The family of fallen cyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann flew in from the East Coast to attend a hearing last week in the criminal case against motorist Ryne San Hamel, who allegedly struck Cann while drunk and speeding. At the hearing, the assistant state’s attorney said she plans to have an expert examine San Hamel’s car […]