Crime & Courts

Former La Salle County drug suspect strikes out on appeal

Litwin unsuccessfully sued Utica, La Salle County after conviction overturned

gavel

A former drug suspect whose conviction was overturned and who then sued Utica and La Salle County had his appeal dismissed Monday.

Eric Litwin, then a resident of of South Easton, Massachusetts, sued the village and county in 2017 after his conviction and 12-year sentence were overturned. Litwin acted as his own lawyer and was given several chances to amend his lawsuit, which ultimately was thrown out. He then appealed to the Third District Appellate Court.

Monday, the appeals court issued an unanimous ruling dismissing Litwin’s appeal, primarily on technical grounds.

“Before we can consider the merits of Litwin’s appeal, we find that we are constrained by the inadequacy of his appellate brief,” Justice William Holdridge wrote. “We note that the procedural rules governing the content and form of appellate briefs are mandatory and not suggestions.”

After citing the procedural errors in Litwin’s appeal, Holdridge said the court “has the discretion to strike the brief and dismiss the appeal.”

“We recognize that striking a brief is a harsh sanction and is only appropriate where the violations of procedural rules hinder our review,” the justice wrote. “The aforementioned failures, in totality, hinder our ability to understand the facts of the case and Litwin’s contentions of error. We will not search the record for the purpose of finding error where an appellant has made no good-faith effort to comply with the supreme court rules governing the contents of briefs.”

Litwin did not return a call seeking comment and thus did not address whether he would seek an alternate remedy.

Barring an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, Monday’s ruling ends a case launched in 2012 when Litwin was pulled over in Utica and charged with hauling 67 pounds of cannabis. He was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison; but the Third District overturned his conviction — the 90-minute traffic stop was deemed overly long — and prosecutors declined to retry him.

The case also was notable because Litwin and his lawyers tried to derail his criminal case based on the fact Utica police then were using faulty dashboard cameras that failed to properly record the bust. The department’s obsolete VHS system was replaced as a direct result of Litwin’s case.