Down to 44

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That’s the number of people left in the jury pool. Jury questioning for Rezko’s corruption trial officially ended late afternoon Tuesday.

At midday, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve announced that nearly two dozen potential jurors had been dismissed after questioning. The reasons for the dismissals weren’t made public, but many of those who didn’t make the final cut had said their employers wouldn’t pay them during the length of the trial.
Today, attorneys on both sides will use their strikes to narrow the pool to the final 12. The defense will get to strike 10 jurors and the government will get six strikes.
Each side will get an additional three strikes for alternate jurors. Including alternates, 20 jurors will be seated by Thursday morning, which is when opening statements are scheduled to begin. The judge plans to dismiss two alternates right away Thursday and keep 18 for the length of the trial. St. Eve said she’s learned from past trials that the two extra are needed as insurance. The trial is expected to last three to four months.

Here’s a recap of some juror happenings as I reported Tuesday...

Jurors included a woman who got emotional when she was asked about a tragedy involving a family member. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who is interviewing the jury pool, asked the woman in open court about a response she’d given on a jurors’ questionnaire about whether she could be fair and impartial given a “tragedy” involving the woman’s sister. The woman hesitated, then said, “I don’t know.” St. Eve didn’t give any details about the topic, which the woman said took place about 30 years ago.

When the woman was taken to the side to meet with the judge and lawyers privately, she could be overheard crying as she said: “He only got seven years . . . What do we have?”

The courtroom fell silent. At that point, Rezko turned to a friend in the courtroom and gave him a quick wink.
That woman didn’t make it onto the final list.

Rezko, 52, is accused of shaking down companies seeking state pension business for millions of dollars in kickbacks and campaign contributions.

Other prospective jurors interviewed Tuesday included a pothole patcher and snow plow driver for the Illinois Department of Transportation, a representative for a shoe manufacturer and a college student.

One woman was asked about her ex-husband’s run-in with the law over drug-related charges. Was he treated fairly, the judge wanted to know.

“I guess,” the woman said, smirking. “He’s my ex, though.”

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Natasha Korecki

Natasha Korecki is the Federal Courts Reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, covering federal news, corruption investigations and trials.

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This page contains a single entry by Natasha Korecki published on March 4, 2008 11:34 PM.

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