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Judge: Lawyers can’t talk to jurors about allegations of racism in jury room

The tattooed arm of a member of the gang the Black Souls. One arm was tagged with "Black," the other with "souls." | Robert A. Davis/File photo

The tattooed arm of a member of the gang the Black Souls. One arm was tagged with "Black," the other with "souls." | Robert A. Davis/File photo

Lawyers for alleged leaders of the Black Souls street gang cannot talk to jurors about allegations that deliberations were marred by racist remarks and physical threats in the jury room, a Cook County judge ruled Friday.

Judge Michael McHale denied a request from the defense team for six reputed gang members to interview a juror who said that one or more of her peers used “the n-word,” jumped on tables and threw chairs as the jury was deadlocked on a verdict two days into deliberations.

McHale noted the allegations of bias were reported by the sister of defendant Antwan Davis, and noted that the juror — identified as Juror 40— had been thrown off the jury for questioning the fairness of jury instructions.

“Juror 40 twice violated her oath when she signed the note” on the jury instructions, McHale said, reading from an order. “I would not find any information from Juror 40 to be reliable at all.”

After two days of deliberations, five jurors were dismissed in a matter of hours: a
juror who was identified in a note — signed by the jury forewoman and Juror 40 — as making racist remarks, and another juror who admitted she was related to gang members.

A few hours later, another juror collapsed and was dismissed. Within the hour, McHale dismissed Juror 40 and the forewoman after they sent the judge a note that questioned the fairness of portions of the 72-page jury instructions.

According to an affidavit from Davis’ sister, Shiri Davis, Juror 40 said one or more jurors jumped on tables and threw chairs. A white male juror called another juror “ugly,” prompting Juror 40 to tell him to “back off before she knocked his ass out.”

The heated exchange took place just before the juror who collapsed was taken from the courthouse in an ambulance, after suffering what Juror 40 said was an “anxiety attack.”

“The were calling us every name but the child of God,” the juror reportedly told Davis’ sister.

Post-trial revelations about the inner workings of a jury seldom make successful grounds for overturning a verdict, and McHale warned attorneys that they should not seek out jurors and should instruct any juror who wants to talk about the case to call the judge.

“Nobody should be reaching out to any of these jurors,” McHale said.

Lawrence Levin, attorney for purported high ranking Black Souls member Teron Odum, said the defense team would appeal McHale’s ruling.