Gwyn E. Ward Brown
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (10th Subcircuit (O'Neill Burke Vacancy district)
Responses to our questions
Please submit an essay that explains your legal background, why you are qualified for this position and why you seek this position.
Upon graduating law school, I was a solo practitioner in Milwaukee, WI. My husband was an actor at the time and often worked in Chicago so I sought work here.
I started in the Public Defender's office as a clerk, and passed the bar while pregnant with my first daughter. I was hired and assigned to the post-conviction unit. I loved it and have remained there ever since. The Post-Conviction Unit (PC's) was the best kept secret in our office. I say "was" because it has since become more popular and is now a combination unit that handles PC's, appeals, DNA, research, and all exoneration matters.
As an attorney of the highest grade, within PC's, I handle mostly murder cases. Presently, I have the following assigned to me: 15 murder cases, 2 attempt murders, 3 Aggravated sexual assaults, 5 drug cases, 1 armed robbery, 1 felony appeal, 1 misdemeanor appeal, 2 DNA motions, and one motion to withdraw a guilty plea. Although I am not presently assigned any, I also handle civil appeals. In the past year, I have had two evidentiary hearings. Evidentiary hearings are equivalent to a bench trial. Post convictions can go on for years.
For example, I have a case from 1988. They can be complicated, involving years of investigation. I do most of my own investigation often choosing to accompany my investigator on assignments. My practice mimics that of private counsel in that I travel countywide and make my own schedule. I often take the initiative to work beyond my assignment.
I have done multiple jury trials and have assisted on several cases that ultimately did not go to trial. Last year, I second chaired a murder resentencing that was granted because I won the post-conviction.
One of my former clients (Alonzo Smith), who was tortured by officers under the command of Jon Burge, was granted a new trial and is now seeking exoneration. I worked years on that case before recommending that he go with Flint Taylor, as there were going to be lawsuits involved. I love my work. It can be very gratifying when you win justice for the poor and forgotten. Trust me when I say that no one is held in more disdain than a post-conviction client. These folks have often exhausted their appeals and are coming back to the trial court hoping to be heard.
One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned came to me as an undergraduate philosophy student at Marquette. I learned not only to think and reason but to listen. I have found in my work, representing the underpriviledged, that we all just want to be heard. I have listened to my clients. I have heard their cries for justice.
I have fought the good fight with what power I have as a pubic defender. I am ready to listen as a judge and use that power to administer justice to those deserving. Not only would it be an honor to be a Circuit Court judge but another step forward in my career as a public servant. Thank you for your time.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
Years ago I seriously pursued the marketing of a barbecue sauce recipe passed down from my mother. It's a dream that may still have life. Ha!