Constitutional Law

'Rigged' jury pool has no black men, lawyer complains; judge then issues gag order


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File photo of Sam Eugene Adam, Jr., with his
father, Sam Forbes Adam, Sr., by Wayne Slezak.

A federal judge overseeing the tax evasion trial of a Chicago politician issued a gag order Wednesday prohibiting lawyers from talking to the media after his defense counsel complained that the 50-member jury pool contained no black men.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel did not expressly mention Tuesday’s out-of-court comments by attorney Sam Adam Sr., who contended the jury pool had somehow been “rigged,” the Associated Press reports. However, the judge said there would be zero tolerance for any comments from the lawyers in the case, even concerning scheduling matters, because, Zagel said, making public statements during trial “frequently distracts the lawyers from the purpose of the case.”

Adam, and his son Sam Adam Jr., who also represents Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, are known for making witty and inflammatory comments to reporters during trial, the article notes.

The jury pool for a federal case in Chicago is randomly selected by a special independent office of the court.

Attorney Victor Henderson told Zagel in court on Tuesday that the defense was “astonished” to see “not one black male and just one or two black females” in the jury pool, and the judge acknowledged this is a rare event, the Chicago Tribune reported. However, Zagel refused the lawyer’s request to dismiss the panel and try again, saying that nixing a randomly selected jury pool could create legal issues.

Instead, the judge said, lawyers for both sides should talk with the U.S. clerk’s office for the Northern District of Illinois to make sure proper procedures had been followed in selecting the jury pool.

After the hearing, the AP article reports, Adam told reporters he had never seen a jury pool without black men and complained: “This is outrageous. It could not happen by accident. This is all rigged someplace.”

The Chicago Tribune also has a story about the gag order.

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