Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who needs TV when you live in Chicago?

by Laura Caldwell

So, my favorite show, The Good Wife, is just about done for the season, Project Runway is over as well, and the Real Housewives of New York are winding down. Normally, the departure of my go-to shows would make me a little cranky. But not this year. Not this summer.

Instead, the summer of 2010 in Chicago is going to be a doozie because we have three big-by-big trials ready to roll.

On tap first, the federal perjury trial of former Chicago police detective, Jon Burge. Burge's name has become synonymous in the city for torture during police interrogations. His tactics allegedly included administering electric shocks to the testicles and anus, suffocating suspects with typewriter bags and shoving pistols in suspects' mouths. A columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times once wrote of Burge, "[He] could have squeezed a murder confession out of Mother Teresa." In the late 1980s, Burge was investigated by the Office of Professional Standards who determined he had engaged in systematic torture for thirteen years, but a civil suit against him for police brutality resulted in a hung jury. The current charges by the U.S. Attorneys Office claim Burge lied about his torture tactics during that civil case.

Burge's trial starts on Monday and although I'm usually a supporter of the ban on cameras in Illinois courts, I really wish I could curl up with a bowl of popcorn and watch this one. The good news? John Conroy, the stellar journalist who has covered Burge for decades, will be blogging about the trial for WBEZ.

Next up will be Rod Blagovecich. Blago. Say no more, right? I don't think I need to recap this one. Suffice to say we're in for an interesting trial as the U.S. attorneys set out to prove that Blago was trying to sell Obama's senate seat. A former lawyer and advisor to Blago has recently plead guilty, again, to various charges in order to get a reduced sentence and, more importantly, in exchange for his testimony at the trial. Senator Dick Durbin has been subpoened to testify too, along with a host of others. Blago's team has even attempted to get President Obama to testify. Their request for the Prez's deposition was denied, but the issue was left open, so there does remain an ultra-slim chance that he'll testify. The circus is set to begin June 3 unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants Blago's request to postpone. (The fact that the Supreme Court of our great nation has to deal with Blago in any way shape or form is so very wrong). The case will be covered with a plethora of local, national and even international coverage, and I just might have to head down to the courthouse once or twice myself.

And finally, over in Will County, they're preparing for the June 14 trial of Drew Peterson, whose insane narcisim only rivals that of Blago's. This case has an OJ tinge to it, since everyone involved (and much of the public) seems to resoundingly believe that Peterson killed 2 of his wives. But they're trying him for the murder of the one whose death has actually been confirmed. Most interesting, from a legal standpoint, is the new Drew Peterson hearsay law, crafted just for this case, which allows "testimony from the grave" --that of Peterson's fourth wife who, before she disappeared, told her pastor that Peterson had admitted killing the wife who had come before her. Legal scholars around the country will be watching to see how this one plays out.

So, with all this going on, I'm not wanting for entertainment this summer. It's all right here in the Chicago area, and I won't be missing the Good Wife. Not one bit.


Libby Hellmann said...

I'm right there with you, Laura. This is going to be a humdinger of a season. Popcorn's on me.

Violette Severin said...

I wonder if the trials will be on Court TV. Blago's trial will be discussed on the cable news stations but I prefer to hear the trial myself without all the commentary.

Laura Caldwell said...

No, doesn't look like any cameras will be allowed. The 7th Circuit (which covers the Illinois Northern District) has a mandate against electronic devices. So we won't see any of these trials on TV. We'll have to either go ourselves, rely on bloggers or rely on the media. I think I will do all of the above.

Private Detective said...

No trial will be on TV because it is banned.