The man accused in the fatal 2011 shooting of a taxicab driver in Evanston pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Darien Marquez-Connerly was arrested a week after the May 15, 2011, shooting by Evanston police for the murder of cab driver Leodis Blackburn.

Police say Marquez-Connerly had flagged down Blackburn, a driver for Best Taxi Service, at Howard Street and Ridge Avenue. When the cab arrived in the 500 block of Elmwood Avenue, Marquez-Connerly shot Blackburn once in the head during an attempted armed robbery.

Blackburn, 50, of 5930 W. Iowa St. in Chicago, died four days later at St. Francis Hospital.

Evanston Police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan praised the efforts of Evanston detectives and the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force that led to Connerly’s arrest a week after the shooting and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for its efforts in prosecuting the case.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Edidin accepted the builty plea and imposed the 35 year sentence today in Skokie district court.

Related stories

Cabbie shot in south Evanston (5/15/11)

Shot cab driver dies (5/19/11)

Chicago man charged in fatal shooting of cab driver (5/23/11)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Murder and “Short” Sentences
    I think most people are shocked when they see anything less than “life in prison” for any murder. While I don’t condone things like taking a life when there is a threat and police/courts don’t do anything [like “burning bed defense”] most people can distinguish these from murders like in this case.
    One reason the death penalty is accepted by people, is they see all the people who get released early or even escape. If the courts would do their job and put murders away for life—with no chance of parole—we would have fewer repeat murders. There is no excuse.

    1. To the contrary, most people
      To the contrary, most people in civilized countries are shocked at the way we hand out life sentences in this country.

      You seem to misunderstand some aspects of Illinois sentencing. There is no parole in Illinois; we have determinate sentencing. In other words, you know your release date virtually on the day you are sentenced. In this case, the defendant was a teenager when he committed this crime, and he’ll be a 54 year old man when he’s released (murder sentences are served at 100% time). That doesn’t seem very lenient to me.

      Recidivism, and especially violent recidivism, is demonstrated to decline sharply around the age of 50, making it unlikely that this defendant will be a “repeat murderer.”

      This was also a negotiated guilty plea, and therefore multiple levels of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office — not an institution known for its mercy — signed off on it. In fact, the State must have essentially papered over the facts of the crime during the plea, since the minimum sentence for a murder using a gun in Illinois is 45 years. That indicates either that there was a weakness in the State’s case (funny how supposedly vicious criminals often open their heart to detectives in the interview room, isn’t it?), or the State recognized that the mitigation in the defendant’s case justified coming off that minimum sentence.

      Yes, if we want biblical justice, then the mandatory penalty for murder should be death, as you seem to be receptive to. But we’ve thankfully moved beyond that as a society, and our Supreme Court has interpreted any scheme even resembling mandatory death as contrary the “evolving standards of decency” embodied in the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution.

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