With approximately 5.3 million residents, Cook County, Illinois is the second most densely populated county in the country, behind Los Angeles County. Cook County houses upwards of 130 incorporated municipalities, the largest being Chicago, which also serves as the county seat.
Cook County is notable for its extensive justice and criminal law system. The Circuit Court of Cook County is the largest unified court system worldwide, and handles over 1.2 million cases each year. Additionally, Cook County has the second-largest county law library in the U.S. Cook County is also home to the largest single jail site in the U.S., the Cook County Department of Corrections. Further, Cook County built the first juvenile detention center in the U.S., which remains one of the largest in the nation today.
In the News: Cook County famously tried and convicted one of the most notorious serial killers in U.S. history. In People v. John Wayne Gacy, Gacy (often called the "killer clown" for the costume he wore at neighborhood block parties) was found guilty for the rapes and murders of 33 boys and young men. Gacy first pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity; later, he claimed that the murders were mere accidents arising during erotic asphyxia play. However, Gacy was unable to suppress his earlier confession to police, and his conviction was affirmed by Illinois’ highest court in 1985. Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994, although his death was delayed after the chemicals injected into his arm solidified and the tube needed to be reinserted. This accident prompted Illinois to institute a new method of lethal injection.
For more information on Cook County’s legal history and current practices, visit:
- The Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago
- Northwestern University Law Library
- Lawyer Referral Services in Cook County
- Cook County Bar Association
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