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Who Killed the Judge? Stress Is a Suspect

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Rhonda Crawford won election to become a judge, but died of an apparent suicide before she could take the bench.

She had tried on the robes prior to her election, and that was the source of her problems. Crawford was accused of impersonating a judge and was about to go to trial before her death.

Attorneys said she would have won the case, but apparently the pressure was too much for her. It is a maxim, one way or another, that stress kills.

"Untenable Situation"

Crawford, 46, handily won election to the Cook County bench in 2016. However, the Illinois Supreme Court temporarily barred her appointment after allegations surfaced that she had impersonated a judge.

She was a staff attorney for Judge Valerie Turner, who had asked Crawford to fill in on traffic cases one day. Turner announced "we're going to swith judges" and gave her robe to Crawford.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans suspended and then fired Crawford, who was a popular attorney at the courthouse. Rob Robertson, her criminal defense attorney, said she "led an exemplary life."

"I think she was put in an untenable situation by a number of others," he said. "I looked forward to vindicating her ... but that's not going to happen now."

"Exemplary Life"

After her career as a registered nurse, Crawford graduated from Chicago Kent College of Law in 2003. She worked as a law clerk and staff attorney at the Markham Courthouse.

On Aug. 1, 2016, Judge Turner introduced the attorney as "Judge Crawford." Turner, who was apparently suffering from Alzheimer's, was later forced to retire.

Throughout criminal and disciplinary proceedings, Crawford said she didn't intentionally mislead anyone and was just following the lead of the presiding judge. Adrian Vuckovich, her attorney in the discipline case, said she would have been cleared.

"Rhonda never intentionally did anything wrong to anybody," he said. "She was just a young lawyer caught up in a difficult situation."

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