Prosecutors claim ex-Will County judge failed to follow SAFE-T Act in murder case

Judge Dave Carlson listens to a witness at the trial of Jermaine Mandley, 47, of Bolingbrook, at the Will County Courthouse on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 in Joliet. Mandley is on trial for the alleged shooting of Maya Smith, 24, in June 2022.

Prosecutors argue a former Will County judge refused to make several findings in accordance with a provision of the SAFE-T Act when he ordered the release of a man charged with murder, such as whether he posed a threat to others and the community.

Prosecutors filed a new motion on May 6 as part of their latest bid to keep Jeremy Boshears, 39, of Coal City, in jail on charges of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death. Boshears is slated to be released from jail on May 20 following an April 29 ruling from former Will County Judge Dave Carlson, who retired April 30.

Carlson’s ruling to release Boshears gave prosecutors time to appeal the decision before May 20. However, prosecutors argue Carlson refused to make findings required under a provision of the SAFE-T Act called the Pretrial Fairness Act, which eliminated cash bail last year.

Without those “requisite findings,” there cannot be a “meaningful review” by an appellate court, according to prosecutors.

As a result, prosecutors are asking Will County Judge Jessica Colón-Sayre to vacate Carlson’s court order to release Boshears and at the very least hold another pretrial release hearing. Colón-Sayre may reach a decision on Wednesday.

Carlson ordered Boshears’ pretrial release based on the information presented by both parties, the facts and circumstances of the case, Boshears’ lack of criminal history and his ties to the community. He ordered Boshears to stay confined at his residence with limited exceptions and submit to electronic monitoring.

For a second time, Boshears stands charged with fatally shooting Kaitlyn “Katie” Kearns, 24, at the Joliet Outlaws clubhouse in 2017 and hiding her body inside of a barn in Kankakee County.

In 2022, a jury convicted Boshears of killing Kearns and concealing her death from authorities. Earlier this year, Carlson granted Boshears a new trial based on what he determined were errors committed by prosecutors during the trial.

Jeremy Boshears, 36, watches as his lawyer Chuck Bretz converses with the prosecuting attorney Thomas Bahar. Boshears is charged with the murder of Kaitlyn “Katie” Kearns, 24, on Nov. 13, 2017. Monday, April 25, 2022, in Joliet.

At a April 24 court hearing, Carlson suggested he would have no choice but to release Boshears under the SAFE-T Act. The judge questioned whether charges pending against Boshears mattered under the law. Advocates of the law said it makes detention under the pretrial system the “carefully limited exception” for defendants.

In the May 6 motion, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Shlifka said there is a statutory requirement that judges make specific findings for detention hearings under the Pretrial Fairness Act.

However, Shlifka argued Carlson refused to make those findings at Boshears’ April 29 court hearing in accordance with the act.

The findings that Shlifka said Carlson refused to make include whether prosecutors provided sufficient evidence that Boshears committed the offenses he’s charged with, posed a threat to others and the community and was likely to flee from prosecution.

During a court hearing on April 29, Carlson said the SAFE-T Act “poses more questions than answers” and puts judges in a “really, really bad spot.”

Carlson raised ethical concerns about deciding Boshears’ release from jail under a clear and convincing evidence standard — rather than probable cause — when he already presided over Boshears’ 2022 trial.

Shlifka quoted Carlson’s April 29 ruling, where the judge said, “I am not going to tell the state that by clear and convincing evidence that I find that there’s sufficient evidence to go forward with, A, the detention; and, B, the case itself. But I’m also not going to say that there isn’t.”

Shlifka’s motion argued Carlson “explicitly and intentionally chose not to follow the [Pretrial Fairness Act], or make the requisite findings.”

Shlifka contends Carlson’s ruling does not allow an appellate court to meaningfully review his decision.

Shlifka cited a 2023 appellate court decision that reversed a Rock Island County judge’s ruling on a defendant’s pretrial release. The appellate court reversed the judge’s ruling for failure to make findings that were sufficient for an appellate review.