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Judge recuses herself from retrial of Malvin Washington murder case

Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Cannon

Just days after a hearing at which she blasted defense lawyers for their repeated attempts to have her thrown off a murder case, Cook County Judge Diane Gordon Cannon Thursday announced she was recusing herself from the retrial of Malvin Washington.

In the latest twist in a case that has been on her docket for more than a decade, Cannon announced at a brief hearing that she is recusing herself for “ethical reasons,” said Jeffrey Urdangen, one of Washington’s attorney.

The move by the judge comes after last Friday when she lectured Urdangen and his co-counsel, Alison Flaum, who had claimed Cannon had called them “Mr. Underwear” and “Ms. Phlegm” after a recent hearing in the case.

Cannon last week pledged she would never recuse herself and had claimed Urdangen had told one of his law students that he wished the judge would retire or die of cancer before Washington’s trial. Urdangen denied making the remark.

“I am elated for my client and his family,” Urdangen said Thursday. “This was long overdue.”

Washington already had been tried in Cannon’s courtroom for the 2004 murder of Marquis Reed, a killing Washington claims was self-defense.

Washington’s first trial in 2008 ended only three days after it started, with Cannon ordering a mistrial after she learned Washington’s father had run into a juror while waiting for the bus and tried to discuss the case.

Washington was convicted at trial a few months later but won a re-trial in 2010.

Since his arrest in 2004, Washington has had three sets of attorneys, who combined have tried five times to have Cannon removed as judge.

Last week, Cannon seemed to be fighting off yet another attempt to have her tossed from the case, based on Urdangen’s allegation that she had mocked his and Flaum’s names.

“We’re not going to delay this case another two years so you can have an ‘underpants’ motion,” Cannon said, referring to Urdangen’s complaint.

Cannon last week had wondered aloud whether the “obsession” with removing her from the case was because of her role as presiding judge in the re-trial of Anthony McKinney, a controversial case handled by lawyers who, like Urdangen and Flaum, were on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic.

The McKinney case dragged on in part because of the involvement of then-Northwestern journalism professor David Protess, whose storied career at the school ended acrimoniously because of allegations aired when prosecutors sought notes and other records on his investigation of the case.

McKinney died in prison before he case was retried.