News Release

Joint IACDL and NACDL Statement Concerning the Presumption of Innocence, the Presumption of Pretrial Release, and Fundamental Fairness in Our Criminal Legal System

Washington, DC (June 10, 2022) – During a press conference held on Monday, June 6, 2022, Lori Lightfoot, the Mayor of Chicago, urged judges to deny bail for people accused of violent crimes simply because prosecutors had elected to charge them. Mayor Lightfoot suggested that judges should assume guilt when deciding whether to grant bail because "given the exacting standards that the state’s attorney has for charging a case, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, when those charges are brought, these people are guilty."

Mayor Lightfoot’s comments cannot be reconciled with the fundamentals of our Constitution. Her comments, which she has yet to correct, call into question the presumption of innocence—a bedrock of our American criminal legal system that protects each of us from arbitrary or misguided government power. Her comments also undermine the right to be free of excessive bail established in the Eighth Amendment which Framers included to ensure that an individual, presumed innocent, can prepare for trial and avoid loss of liberty until a jury of his or her peers decides guilt.

William Loeffel, President of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, noted that Illinois law specifically provides factors to be considered by a court in setting or denying bail, including the strength of the evidence, but the presumption of guilt is not one of them.

"Rather than propose real reform, Mayor Lightfoot opted to make an empty political gesture," added Martín Sabelli, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "Real crime requires real solutions – not fear mongering. Locking people away before trial will not reduce crime, will crowd our jails with the innocent and guilty alike, and will break the will of many who will lose their jobs, their homes, and their hope before a single piece of evidence has been shown to a single juror. Sadly, history has taught us that this type of punishment hits people of color and the poor hardest."

Jonathan Brayman, President-Elect of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, observed that "our criminal legal system is based on the ideals of due process, fairness, and justice. Detaining individuals, without regard to individualized assessments of their risk of flight, danger to the community, or their guilt or innocence, undercuts these basic American ideals. Public officials should know and do better than to advance such undemocratic and harmful policies."

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Kate Holden, NACDLPublic Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.