Morgan case ends in mistrial

Reportedly, 10 of 12 jurors voted not guilty

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By DELORES MCCAIN

Early Saturday, May 12, the jurors in the Howard Morgan case informed the court they were deadlocked. Judge Clayton Crane said at 11:55 a.m. that he received a note from the foreman saying they could not reach a verdict. Morgan was on trial for a total of eight counts-four counts of attempted murder (one per Chicago police officer) and four counts of aggravated battery.

According to defense attorneys, 10 jurors voted not guilty, but two jurors held out.

The previous day, jurors did find Morgan not guilty on three charges of aggravated battery, two charges of discharge of a firearm, and one of aggravated battery. The remaining charges-one of aggravated battery and the more serious four counts of attempted murder of a police officer-could not be resolved.

The question now for prosecutors and defense attorneys is if Morgan was found not guilty of discharging a firearm, how could attempted murder stand?

Recapping the end of the trial:

On Tuesday, May 8, Assistant State's Attorney Catherine Nauher took the stand to clarify the statements she took from witness Charice Rush. Nauher said she was assigned to Felony Review Unit in 2005, and she did interview Rush. The state prosecutors' purpose of bringing in Nauher was to refute witness Rush's testimony.

Nauher said, "She came in by herself. We asked her name and what she saw. She said she was at the area of 19th & Lawndale and she saw a man in a van. She said he was too far away to see a gun. The state's attorney asked, "Did she ever tell anyone there were five police?" Nauher responded, "No."

Nauher said she spoke to Rush on Feb. 22, 2005 and took her hand-written statement. "It was at Area 4. I wanted to make sure she understood English, and I wrote down what she said. She added a statement about her brother-in-law's car. I asked her to sign each page."

During cross-examination by defense attorney Sam Adams Jr., he questioned Nauher about her training after 25 years of service. Nauher indicated she learned her duties over the years through experience. Adams also wanted to know what prevented Rush from writing her own statement. Nauher stated this is what Felony Review usually does. She also stated that they usually read the statements with the person. Adams also questioned the fact that there wasn't anything about the defendant firing any shots. Nauher stated she thought it was there. She also stated that Rush never said anything about Morgan's hands being behind him. Adams Jr. also wanted to know why Nauher did not call in a court reporter when taking this witness statement.

On Wednesday, May 9, closing arguments began. Prior to the court proceedings, one of the defense attorneys, retired Judge Leo Holt, brought to Judge Crane's attention that the courtroom was packed with uniformed, armed police officers. Holt said he felt this was an attempt to intimidate the jury and protested, saying the officers should be at work, not seated in the courtroom. Judge Crane, however, said such arrangements were appropriate for a public trial. Holt replied, "It is totally improper. They don't walk around on their day off in uniform." Approximately 10-15 police were present in the courtroom.

State's Attorney Phyllis Porcelli began closing arguments while partner Dan Groth observed.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began, "a call of 'officer down'-all because one man decided to turn a traffic stop into a shootout. He was driving the wrong way down a one-way street." She stated that officers Olson and White were assisted by officers Ridley and Finley. "Finley and Ridley pull their weapons out at the 'low ready,' Finley goes to arrest Morgan and they order him to stop resisting and 'Give us your hands.' Eric White tries to get him to stop fighting. He then hits him in the back of the head, but [Morgan] did not stop," Porcelli stated. "Olson received a shot through the arm and all the officers tried to protect themselves, so they fired back."

This, she said is called "attempted murder of police officers."

"How do we know Morgan opened fire on four officers?" Porcelli asked "Tim Finley told you he saw the defendant with a gun in his hand. He went for cover by his squad car, and he kicked the gun to get it away. John Ridley told you what happened as well. He told you how he saw the defendant fighting with three officers and how the defendant fired at him. Eric Olson told you how they wanted to pat him down, and the defendant was fighting. His right hand was tucked into his waistband. The defendant came up with a gun and fired. He was firing in a circular motion from Finley, Ridley, Olson and White."

According to Porcelli, the officers were telling the truth. These officers were doing their job she stated. The defendant's intent was to injure another person.

To everyone's surprise, after the state's closing arguments, the defense decided to rest. The defense team decided they had already proven their case, that Morgan was innocent. "We have heard officers contradict themselves, and the evidence showed Howard did not do it," stated the defense team.

Verdict watch began on May 9 and concluded May 12. On Friday night, everyone returned to 26th & California thinking a verdict had come in. However, the jury was deadlocked. On this particular evening, the presence of Chicago police officers was overwhelming. An estimated 50 squads were parked in front of the building, and the lobby was full of television media.

Throughout the three-week trial, Howard's wife, Rosalind Morgan, along with family members, followed the proceedings.

Community activists and leaders are now calling upon State's Attorney Richard Devine and Mayor Richard Daley to drop the charges against Morgan since 10 of the 12 jurors found him not guilty.

There will be a status hearing for attorneys on June 12 to decide if the state will retry.

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