- Created on 08 May 2013
A former Cook County commissioner has asked a judge to toss his tax-evasion convictions, alleging the system for picking would-be federal jurors in northeastern Illinois was fundamentally flawed and led to no black men on his jury.
William Beavers, who is black, argues in a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court in Chicago that a jury of his peers in such a geographically diverse region should have included at least a few black males.
A jury of 10 whites, one Hispanic and one African-American female convicted the Democrat two months ago of using campaign funds to gamble without reporting it as income.
While the trial otherwise focused on dry tax issues, it attracted widespread attention because of Beavers, who gained a reputation as an old-school Chicago politician with shoot-from-the-hip swagger.
As jury selection began at his March trial, Beavers' attorneys immediately objected that there were no black men and only a few African-American women in the 50-person pool of prospective jurors.
Judge James Zagel refused a defense request to replace that initial pool, saying at the time that so few African-Americans was unusual but not statistically impossible.
Every two years, 50,000 names have been selected randomly from voter registrations in the eight-county court district. They serve as a master list, from which jury pools for individual trials are chosen.
The 26-page motion filed late Monday contends that drawing would-be jurors randomly from registration lists was more likely to exclude African-Americans and to include whites.
It claims more than 17 percent of the eligible jury population is black but only 14 percent made it onto the 2009 master list. But with a 66 percent white jury-eligible population, the list was 76 percent white.
Only recently — according to a decision made last year — did the district begin selecting its master lists of potential jurors using not just voter registration lists but driver's license and other state IDs, the filing says. The master list in place for Beavers' trial was chosen before the change was implemented.
"This change is an implicit admission that there is a problem with pulling originally only from voter registration rolls," the filing says.
The district court's clerk, Tom Bruton, declined comment Tuesday because it is a pending legal matter. A prosecutors' spokesman, Randall Samborn, also declined comment.
Motions for new trials on the basis of an allegedly faulty jury rarely prevail.
"Maybe it does feel like it wasn't a jury of Mr. Beavers peers, but it's something defendants deal with all the time," said Alan Tuerkheimer, a Chicago-based jury consultant. "No one ever gets the perfect jury."
To prevail, Beavers would have to show a jury with a different racial makeup would likely have arrived at a different verdict. That will be a hard case to make, Tuerkheimer said.
"People just assume race is predictive," he said. "Sometimes people are more critical of people in their so-called group."
And allowing Beavers a new trial on grounds jury-selection procedures improved since his trial would open the floodgates to such claims every time adjustments are made to the selection process, he said.
Jury selection isn't the only shortcoming of the trial alleged in the defense motion.
Among other criticisms, it says Zagel was wrong to prohibit the defense from telling jurors that Beavers amended his returns and repaid money to his campaign — albeit after he learned he was under investigation.
Beavers was convicted of four tax-evasion counts, with each carrying a maximum three-year prison term. A sentencing date has not been set.
- Created on 08 May 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A union-backed approach for dealing with Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis is getting its first full airing.
A Senate committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the new legislative proposal.
The measure gives workers and retirees a choice of benefit packages. For example, if workers choose to receive health insurance in retirement they would get smaller cost-of-living increases. Those who choose to keep 3 percent cost-of-living increases compounded annually wouldn't get health insurance.
Senate President John Cullerton says the plan saves money and would survive a court challenge.
Critics say the cost savings may not be enough to properly address Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension shortfall.
Senate Democrats opted to move forward with the union-supported proposal over a plan approved in the House last week that would unilaterally cut retirement benefits.
- Created on 07 May 2013
Police were responding to report a burglary Monday night in the Englewood community when a police officer ended up accidentally shooting a fellow officer.
The 42-year-old officer was struck in the leg and taken to a local hospital, according to police. The officer he was with on the call was trying to shoot at an attacking dog.
The wounded officer was released from the hospital Tuesday morning.
- Created on 07 May 2013
MIAMI — Only one team has held the Miami Heat below 90 points on their home floor this season. That would be the Chicago Bulls, and for good measure, they've now done it twice.
So by now, it's obvious: If there's a team in the NBA that has Miami's number, it has to be the Bulls.
Nate Robinson scored 27 points and dominated in the final minutes — after needing 10 stitches to sew up his lip — while Jimmy Butler added 21 points and a career high-tying 14 rebounds as the Bulls pulled off a stunner by beating Miami 93-86 Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Actually, maybe it's not that much of a stunner anymore. Since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all ignored overtures from the Bulls and decided to team up in Miami three years ago, Chicago has a 9-8 record against the Heat.
"I've played on some tough teams," Robinson said. "But this one, there's something a little different, something special about this group."
It's only one game, something plenty of Bulls players and coach Tom Thibodeau pointed out incessantly afterward. But even a 1-0 lead in a series typically leads to advancement, so for the Heat, adversity has arrived in a big way in a season where little has gone wrong.
"It's not going to be pretty but playoffs are ugly," said Bosh, who was held to nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. "That's what it's about. It's been a little bit too pretty around here, to be honest with you.
"We're in a situation where dudes are not going to be able to sleep and we're going to have to give it our all in Game 2 and figure everything out."
When it comes to facing Miami, the Bulls have plenty figured out.
They snapped Miami's 27-game winning streak in the regular season — the second-longest in NBA history — and now toppled the champs again, this time ending a run of 12 straight Heat victories overall. Miami has lost five games at home this season, two to the Bulls, who held them to 89 on Jan. 4.
James struggled through a two-point first half before finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Wade added 14 for the Heat, who had no one else in double figures, shot 40 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 46-32.
"I'm not stunned," James said. "This is what the playoffs is all about. We're going against a really good team."
A seven-point deficit midway through the fourth wasn't enough to doom the Bulls, who finished the game on a 10-0 run in the final 1:59. And to think, the Bulls weren't anywhere near full strength. Kirk Hinrich was out again with a calf injury. Luol Deng isn't even expected to rejoin the team until Tuesday, after dealing with an illness apparently so severe that a spinal tap — and other tests since — were needed to rule out things like meningitis.
"So proud of my team man, this bed might be good luck after all," Deng wrote on Twitter after the game, with a photo of him in a hospital bed.
Oh, and Derrick Rose remains sidelined — as he's been since April 2012.
No problem. The Heat are 41-3 in their last 44 games — with two of those losses to the Bulls, who are now 3-2 against Miami this season.
"I think when you're facing adversity, you have to be mentally tough," Thibodeau said. "But this is just one game. We have to play a lot better in our next one."
Miami was outscored 35-24 in the fourth, something that drew the ire of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra afterward.
"There's no excuses," said Spoelstra, whose team had not played in more than a week. "We're not making any excuses for time off or anything else."
If anyone could have made excuses, it was Robinson. He cut his upper lip when he dove for a loose ball with James and struck his head on the court late in the first half.
And then not only did he play the whole second half, he scored 24 points in those 24 minutes, including the last seven points that finished the job for Chicago.
"He was born a scorer," Miami guard Mario Chalmers said.
Joakim Noah scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who also got 12 points from Taj Gibson and 10 from Marco Belinelli. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.
"We're not really a flashy team," Gibson said. "We like to go out and do our job."
A pair of three-point plays by James — one of them coming when he just broke through a tackle attempt by Butler and muscled the ball to the rim anyway — gave Miami a 76-69 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the biggest deficit Chicago faced all night.
The Bulls were undeterred.
Coming off a Game 7 road win in Brooklyn two nights earlier just to get into a series with Miami, the Bulls just kept grinding. When Ray Allen made a 3-pointer to give Miami an 80-78 lead, Butler came back with one of his own to put the Bulls back on top. When the Heat went up by three after James made a free throw with 2:22 left, Belinelli connected for a 3 — on a second-effort possession — to knot the game.
Then when Robinson nailed a 20-footer with 1:18 left, the Bulls had the lead and plenty of swagger.
Wade missed a 3-pointer on the next possession, Robinson drove the lane and scored with 45.5 seconds left, and suddenly the Bulls were up 90-86. James drove against Butler and tried a 12-footer that missed everything, the Bulls got the rebound, Robinson made a free throw to stretch the lead to five and the stunner was complete.
Game 1 to the Bulls.
"It's all about being tough," said Butler, who played all 48 minutes for the third straight game. "We're always going to be the underdogs and we take pride in that. Everybody can overlook us, but we feel like we're good enough to hang with a lot of these teams."
- Created on 06 May 2013
The Chicago Fire Department has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by women who claimed the department's physical fitness test discriminated against female applicants.
Marni Willenson is an attorney for the women.
She says that under the settlement, 138 women who were rejected for jobs will get to reapply or receive a portion of a $2 million payment. The city also will begin using a new fitness exam that Willenson says more closely simulates firefighting.
The settlement still must be approved by a judge, but the women are eligible to reapply for jobs beginning Monday.
Willenson says the previous fitness test didn't adequately gauge whether a candidate was capable of doing the job.
She says her clients are "ecstatic" and "the city is doing the right thing."