Defense: Beavers jury pool 'rigged' to ensure no black men

Defense: Beavers jury pool 'rigged' to ensure no black men

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Jury selection began Tuesday, in the federal tax evasion trial of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers.

Beaver's defense attorneys say they were shocked when the pool of 50 potential jurors filed into Judge James Zagel's courtroom and there wasn't one African American man among them.

"I am outraged, outraged, by what happened today," defense attorney Sam Adam said. "I thought I was in Mississippi, I thought I was down there in Money, Mississippi, trying Emmett Till's killers."

Defense attorney Sam Adam, erupted in anger, after Judge James Zagel refused to request a new pool of potential jurors for William Beavers' trial for failing to pay income taxes.

The 50 jurors from which 12 will be selected include just three black women and no black men.

"Commissioner Beavers is a black man and of 50 prospective jurors, not one black man," defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky commented. "How is that a jury of his peers?"

When Beaver's attorneys raised the issue, Judge James Zagel admitted, "I've never seen in a criminal case a jury that did not have a single black man." The judge said he would issue a court order allowing Beavers attorneys to examine the clerk's supposedly random process which produced these 50 jurors from a much larger pool.

"They're going to say ‘yeah, we rigged the jury?' They're not going to admit it! They're never going to say it," Adam argued. "With hundreds of thousands of African Americans, we don't get one! We don't get one black man! Nah, that couldn't happen by accident."

Judge Zagel reminded the defense attorneys that federal trials use jurors from counties all over northern Illinois, not just Cook County. Without proof the clerk's selection process wasn't random, the judge said there was little he could do.

Clerk Thomas Bruton said Tuesday that, "...if anyone has information that the jury process was not followed properly, they should enter a motion with Judge Zagel. The Clerk's Office staff follows the Jury Plan approved by the Full Court...."

William Beavers, a former alderman and police officer, is charged with failing to pay income taxes on $226,000 that he took from his campaign funds. Prosecutors say he took the money for personal use and failed to report it. He insists that he paid the money back and has done nothing wrong.

Each of the four tax-related counts carries a maximum three-year prison term.

During Tuesday morning's pre-trial arguments, prosecutors suggested that Beavers stopped reporting portions of his income after taking a hard hit on his taxes in 2005.

The federal court trial resumed in Chicago on Monday after a three-month delay to let a defense attorney recover from illness.

Jury selection will continue through the morning Wednesday, with opening statements likely to take place Wednesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last about two weeks, but could be extended if Beavers takes the stand.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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