Leigh Bienen

  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law: Faculty Profile
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law: Selected Publications
  • Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930
    A handwritten record of the 11,000+ homicides in Chicago transformed into an interactive database; including historical, legal and photographic contextual material; 12 video interviews; and 14 scanned volumes of historical works.
  • Illinois Murder Indictments 2000-2010
    On March 9, 2011 Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois. Instrumental in his decision were the findings of the Illinois Committee to Study the Reform of the Death Penalty: between 2000-2010 more than $100 million of state money was spent out of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund on death penalty cases by county state's attorneys, appointed private counsel, the Attorney General and public defenders. This website's Project Director, Leigh Bienen, was a member of that Committee. The 2200 murder indictments which formed the body of evidence are gathered here; you can examine them via our interactive database, and they can also be downloaded. Extensive supporting material is included.
  • Illinois Judges 2015
    Biographical and professional data and information on the election and appointment of all Illinois State Judges sitting during the calendar year 2015, including an Introduction by Alderman Edward M. Burke.
  • Capital Punishment in Illinois in the Aftermath of the Ryan Commutations: Reforms, Economic Realities, and a New Saliency for Issues of Cost (2010)
    In 2000 when Governor George Ryan unilaterally imposed a statewide moratorium on executions in Illinois, in response to accumulating evidence of more than a dozen wrongfully convicted persons on death row in Illinois. In 1999 the Illinois legislature created the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, to allow private, appointed defense counsel, state’s attorneys, and public defenders to be paid directly for the expenses of a capital trial from state appropriated funds, upon the approval of the trial court judge. Publishing new data on capital prosecutions in Illinois since 2000, this article documents evidence of state money spent at the county level on more than 500 capital prosecutions, the largest proportion from Cook County, which resulted in 17 death sentences imposed. More than 100 million dollars of state money has been spent out of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund alone by county state’s attorneys, appointed private counsel, and by public defenders. The availability of state funds changed the dynamics and economic and bureaucratic incentives for capital prosecution. In addition, over 64 million dollars has been spent by the state, the city of Chicago, and the counties in judgments involving wrongful convictions. This article presents data on capital prosecutions and murders across the state, and publishes for the first time the State’s Attorney’s own adopted guidelines for the selection of cases for capital prosecution. When patterns of capital prosecution are examined across the state as a whole, it becomes clear that the counties most likely to spend the state’s money on prosecuting first degree murder cases capitally are not those jurisdictions with the largest number of first degree murders. Nor is there a correspondence between the number of county capital prosecutions, the number of death sentences imposed, the number of murders or the murder rate in that county, and the amount of money spent by the county from the Capital Litigation Trust Fund. County by county disparities in capital case prosecutions and in expenditures of state money are startling. The absence of centralized review and the presence of many potential areas of conflicts of interest should submit the existing system to close scrutiny at this time of budgetary pressure.
  • Florence Kelley in Chicago 1891-1899
    Florence Kelley was the first woman factory inspector in the United States, appointed in Illinois by Governor John Peter Altgeld in 1893. A resident of Hull House, and a reformer – who refused to be associated with any political party–Florence Kelley lived in Chicago from 1891 until 1899, leading and participating in a variety of projects. These included: a wage and ethnicity census of the slums and tenements in Chicago; the reporting of cases and contagion in the smallpox epidemic of 1893; the enforcement of the universal primary education laws, and, most importantly, enforcing the provisions of the Illinois Factory Inspections Law of 1893.
  • Florence Kelley and the Children: Factory Inspector in 1890s Chicago (2013)
    This book aims to fill in the gaps in all that has been written about Florence Kelley—focusing particularly on the somewhat neglected last decade the 19th-century when this advocate for women and children spent time in Chicago.

Homicide & Criminal Law

  • Death Penalty Study Reform Committee: Public hearings
    (Capital Punishment Study Reform Committee Public Hearings, Witness Slips Submitted, Written Testimony and Exhibits); Meeting Minutes; and Capital Punishment Study Reform Committee Members
  • Report of the Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment (2002)
    This is the first report by George Ryan’s Commission on Capital Punishment, including a detailed set of recommendations. (281 pages)
  • Illinois Captial Punishment Reform Study Committee, Sixth and Final Report (2010)
    This is the sixth and final report of the Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee (the Committee), created by statute in 2003. (285 pages)
  • Bluhm Legal Clinic
    Housing more than 20 clinics within 13 centers, the Bluhm Legal Clinic is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective clinical programs in the country. Through Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's clinical program, students gain direct experience representing clients and fine-tune their skills as advocates. Students also work with clinical faculty and staff to challenge the fairness of our legal institutions and to propose solutions for reform.
  • Center on Wrongful Convictions
    The Center on Wrongful Convictions is dedicated to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice. To date, the Center has exonerated more than forty innocent men, women, and children from states around the country, and it receives thousands of inquiries a year. The CWC also houses some of the nation's leading legal experts on false confessions and police interrogations and has helped exonerate more than twenty false confessors.
  • Injustice Watch
    Injustice Watch is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, multimedia journalism organization that conducts in-depth research exposing institutional failures that obstruct justice and equality.
  • Death in America under Color of Law: Our Long, Inglorious Experience with Capital Punishment
    Rob Warden, Daniel Lennard
    This article is a compilation of milestones in the American experience with capital punishment, beginning with the first documented execution in the New World under color of English law more than 400 years ago at Jamestown.
  • National Archive of Criminal Justice Data
    Established in 1978, the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) archives and disseminates data on crime and justice for secondary analysis. The archive contains data from over 2,700 curated studies or statistical data series. NACJD is home to several large-scale and well known datasets, including the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN).
  • Guide to Homicide Databases and Publically Available Research Using Original Homicide Records and Documents 2012
    The purpose of this Guide is to refer users of the Northwestern University Law School Capital Crimes Database, the Illinois Murder indictments web site, to other homicide datasets and research, available online from public sources of information and to introduce different research approaches.
  • Famous Online Cases, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Cook County
    The Clerk of the Circuit Court archives contain original court files and documents reflecting the history of Cook County and, in many cases, the United States. While every court case is very important to the participants, some cases involving famous (or infamous) people or situations engender strong and enduring public interest. This “Famous On-Line Cases” section is an online exhibit hall featuring information about some of the most famous (or notorious) case holdings. Each case includes a narrative summary, images of some of the original case documents and advice on how to get further information about the case.