Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 03, 2011

Governor Quinn Says He’d Veto Concealed Carry Bill

Governor Pat Quinn said Tuesday he would veto a bill allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons, if it ever reaches his desk.

The measure now being considered in the Illinois General Assembly would allow registered gun owners with requisite training to carry hidden guns in public. Illinois is one of just two states that does not have a provision allowing residents to carry concealed weapons.

But Quinn cited a variety of scenarios, from violence against police to fatal road rage incidents, in saying he will not sign the measure if it passes through the legislature.

"The concept of concealed, loaded handguns in the possession of private citizens does not enhance public safety," Quinn said. "On the contrary, it increases danger."

Quinn's announcement comes as an Illinois House committee is considering the bill, which is sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Brandon Phillips of downstate Harrisburg. With a possible vote on the measure coming the next few days, the governor urged lawmakers to rally against the bill.

"It's defeat, I think, would be a good thing for our state," Quinn said.

The governor said it would be too complicated to allow some municipalities to opt out, saying Illinois "must have a law that applies to a whole state." That's one concession that had been forwarded by the bill's sponsor.

Gun rights advocates say letting Illinoisians carry hidden weapons could help them protect themselves from criminals. But opponents maintain having more guns on the street would only increase violence.

(Alex Keefe/IPR)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 03, 2011

Schools are Forum for Discussing bin Laden’s Death

On Monday at Chicago's Rickover Naval Academy High School, students-known here as "cadets"-stood in their platoons on the grassy ball field before school.

And along with the regular morning announcements, they listened to Commander Mike Tooker give this historic message:

"In case any of you haven't heard, last night the president came on television and notified the entire world that Osama bin Laden has been taken out by Special Forces."

Tooker made sure students knew that Navy Seals had a hand in that, but he says, overall, students at the city's only naval academy responded fairly quietly to the news.

"It was my own naval science instructors-the other retired military people who work here-they were the ones who raised their hands and started clapping a little bit, and then the students kind of rolled into that and they started clapping as well."

In fact, Tooker says, it's possible that the naval academy's big win in Friday's baseball game against the Marine Corps Academy was the bigger news.

"That actually generated more applause than the fact that Osama bin Laden had been taken out by U.S. Special Forces," Tooker says.

Memories of 9/11 for many of the city's high school students are interspersed with crayons and kindergarten songs. The U.S. has been looking for Osama bin Laden for most of their lives.

Senior Jocelyn Aguilar, 18, watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television with her mother, who'd picked her up from school. She was seven at the time. Aguilar says May 2 will remain etched in her mind, as well.

"Oh yeah, I'm definitely gonna remember this day.... You know the whole feeling you got with September 11-this is kind of something that marks as well. "

Aguilar, who plans to enlist in the military when she graduates in June, says students and teachers spent a class period reading news sites about bin Laden's death.

"It's a good thing, but at the same time it's just going to erupt a lot more bad stuff. I'm enlisting in the Marine Corps so I'm definitely going to see a part of that as well. ... It's kind of like a bittersweet feeling."

On the other side of the city, students also pondered what the news would mean.

In a fifth period Global Issues class at Kenwood Academy High School on the city's South Side, students worked to put terrorism networks and two wars into context. Their questions guided the discussion-and there were lots of them: Why wasn't bin Laden captured rather than killed? Would the killing affect President Barack Obama's chances at re-election? Are we at greater risk of a terrorist attack now? How do we know for sure that we got bin Laden?

"Does this mean anything for our troops? Like is anybody coming home? Does that fix anything?" one girl wanted to know.

A classmate responded, "I don't think it does, because he's more of a figurehead. Like this isn't really gonna change anything with the war at all."

In a class earlier in the day, students drew parallels between the violence caused by terrorism and gang violence in their neighborhoods.

(Photo by Linda Lutton/IPR)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 02, 2011

Newark’s Garry McCarthy Named Chicago’s New Police Superintendent

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

As expected, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel completed his long-awaited search for a new Chicago Police Superintendent Monday by naming Garry McCarthy to the post.

Since 2006, McCarthy has led the police department in Newark, NJ, and before that he served as Deputy Commissioner of Operations for New York City's police department.

McCarthy replaces Jody Weis, who left the superintendent's job when his contract ended earlier this year. Former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard was tapped to fill out the remaining weeks of his contract.

Under Weis, the department suffered from morale problems as many rank-and-file officers considered him an outsider. Weis came to the job after working at the FBI.

At a news conference on Monday, Emanuel pointed out that despite his lack of experience in Chicago, McCarthy is a second generation law enforcement official who began as a patrol officer and understands the challenges and needs of urban police departments. "He knows how to run a large police force," Emanuel said.

But he also cited McCarthy's efforts in other cities as a key reason behind his selection. "Garry's experience and reputation will bring new ideas and energy to our police department," Emanuel said.

As Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the NYPD, McCarthy was responsible for orchestrating and determining policing strategies for the entire department. In 2006, Newark Mayor Cory Booker tapped him to take over as that city's police chief.

Emanuel praised McCarthy for his efforts to reduce both Newark's murder rate and its civilian complaints. In 2008, Newark led the nation in murder reduction and in April of last year, Newark experienced it's first murder-free month since 1966.

But budget cuts forced Newark to lay off 167 police last year, and so far in 2011, the city's murder rate is 71 percent above its year-ago levels.

Among the first steps McCarthy plans to take as head of the CPD will be to restore the position of First Deputy Superintendent, a position eliminated under Weis' term. Emanuel promised that he and McCarthy would move quickly to implement such a move.

In addition to McCarthy's appointment, Emanuel also stated that Richard Hoff will stay on as commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department. As he visited more than 40 fire stations across the city, Emanuel said firefighters everywhere asked him whether he'd keep Hoff in the role. "This was an easy choice," Emanuel remarked.

Emanuel will be taking over for retiring Mayor Richard Daley on May 16.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 02, 2011

Wisconsin Man Charged in Market Place Mall Shooting, Investigation Continues

A Milwaukee man faces a charge of Attempted Murder in connection with the shooting outside Champaign's Marketplace Mall on Sunday.

Champaign police have obtained a warrant for 28-year old Dontrell Thompson, who remains in Carle Hospital as a result of being fired upon by officers yesterday, but bond is fixed at $2.5 million.

The victim is still hospitalized as well. Police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said a motive won't be determined as long as both men remain hospitalized, but it's believed the men know each other. Officers have also secured two vehicles from the mall parking lot that may have been used to transport both men.

Dunn said initial information indicated rounds may have been fired inside the mall as well, but she says no evidence has been found to support that claim.

"This shooting could have very easily affected more people," Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said in a statement. "Our officers rushed to the shooter after hearing shots fired and stopped the shooter from causing further injury to the victim."

Finney said two off-duty officers who were already at the mall also assisted and prevented further injury.

Champaign Police, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, and FBI continue their investigation.

Anyone with additional information is asked to call Champaign Police or Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 01, 2011

Shots Fired at Market Place Mall

Two people are hospitalized after a shooting at Champaign's Market Place Mall.

Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says police officers were at the mall late Sunday afternoon, responding to a vehicle being recklessly driven around the mall, and a person exiting the vehicle with a gun. At around 4:45, one male fired multiple shots at another male outside the mall near the LensCrafters shop.

"When they got to that particular area, they encountered an armed subject who had shot and was continuing to shoot a subject who was laying on the ground," Finney said.

Several law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, including officials from the University of Illinois, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, the Urbana Police Department, and the Illinois State Police. Finney said the shooter was injured after two police officers fired their weapons.

The two injured individuals were taken to Carle Hospital for treatment, but Finney wouldn't release details about their conditions. He said several people were taken into custody as persons of interest, but no charges have been filed.

Theresa Pickett of Hoopeston was in a department store with her family when the shots rang out.

"We were toward the back of the store, and all we could see were people coming back and the employee was like you need to go to the back of the store," Pickett said. "There was a shooting. And so everyone started running and screaming. It was awful."

There are reports that shots were also fired inside the mall, but Finney couldn't confirm that information.

The shooting occurred on the same weekend during which Champaign hosted thousands of visitors attending Roger Ebert's Film Festival, the Illinois Marathon and a statewide school math tournament. Mayor-elect Don Gerard said the shooting was a tragedy that "punctuated what was an extraordinary weekend for Champaign."

In a statement, Gerard said: "My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families. I am thankful for the swift response of our first-responders and the units which support their efforts in such unfortunate times of crisis."

Finney said police are still exploring the motivation behind the attack, but he said there is no evidence to suggest that this was a random shooting.

People with information about the shooting should call Crime Stoppers 217-373-TIPS or Champaign Police 217-351-4545.

(Photo courtesy of Mitch Kazel)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2011

Il. Supreme Court Considers Allowing Jurors to Question Witnesses

The Illinois Supreme Court is looking at a proposal to give jurors the right to ask witnesses questions during civil trials.

The questions could be modified or excluded after being reviewed by the attorneys and the judge in a case.

"The judge would read or provide a copy of the juror questions to all the lawyers in the case," Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor said. "It would give those attorneys an opportunity to object to any question."

Tybor said if a juror's question is presented to a witness, the judge would then allow attorneys to ask follow-up questions.

Supporters of the plan say this measure would provide lawyers with signals of a juror's focus, and encourage jurors to be more observant during a court case.

But some critics say allowing jurors to publicly talk about a case before closing arguments could jeopardize a final verdict.

"It might skew the results of the process that we have refined over the last several hundred years," said Urbana Attorney Tom Bruno, who chairs the Illinois State Bar Association. "Often just by the nature of questions that the questioner is asking, you can see where their mind is going with it or what their thoughts are on it."

Bruno added he is also concerned this proposal could delegitimize the role of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

"Part of this notion that the jury may think up better questions than my opponent could think up assumes the opposing council isn't smart enough or sharp enough or clever enough to think of asking these questions themselves," Bruno said.

The Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee will hold a public hearing for community input about the proposal on Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago.

The measure would have to be approved by the Rules Committee, and then the full Supreme Court.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2011

Cherry Orchard Landlords to Appear in Court for Violating Judge’s Ruling

The Champaign County State's Attorney's Office has filed an Indirect Criminal Contempt petition against the landlords of the Cherry Orchard Village apartments.

During a bench trial earlier this month, Bernard and Eduardo Ramos were convicted of violating a local health ordinance by failing to legally connect the property's sewer and septic systems. They must pay more than $54,000 in fines, and are barred from housing tenants until the property is brought up to code.

But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed people are still living there.

"The petition alleges that despite the judge's order Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed that people are still residing in the complex," Rietz said in a statement.

The Ramoses must appear in court on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 2:30 to answer the petition.

Cherry Orchard is located right outside of Rantoul, and has traditionally housed migrant workers.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2011

Former Attorney Shows up to Wish Blagojevich Luck

The lead attorney at Rod Blagojevich's first trial walked into the courtroom where the ex-governor's retrial is under way to wish his former client luck.

Sam Adam Jr. showed up just before proceedings began Wednesday. He shook hands with Blagojevich and gave one of the ousted governor's new attorneys a hug.

During the first trial, Adam's courtroom style led to clashes with Judge James Zagel and raised the ire of prosecutors.

Current defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky turned to prosecutors sitting nearby on Wednesday and joked that Adam would be giving the opening statement for the defense.

Jury selection hasn't finished, and Zagel has said openings could take place Monday.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Search on for Unbiased Jurors in Blagojevich Case

The judge and attorneys in Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial on Monday were set to resume the daunting task of selecting jurors who can put aside what they've heard about the high-profile case and give the former Illinois governor a fair trial.

Judge James Zagel was expected to individually question up to 40 more people out of a pool of more than 100 potential jurors to assess their suitability. Each filled out a 38-page jury questionnaire as the retrial started last week.

The impeached governor's first trial ended last year with jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. At the retrial, the 54-year-old still faces 20 charges, including accusations he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.

The first day of individual questioning of would-be jurors on Thursday revealed most either held unfavorable views of politicians in general or of Blagojevich in particular. All had heard at least something about last year's trial.

Zagel spoke to 22 potential jurors Thursday and, by day's end, dismissed 11 on various grounds, including that weeks of jury duty would hit their families hard financially.

But he refused defense requests to send home several people who seemed biased against Blagojevich, including a retired auto shop owner who wrote that, "Based on news accounts, my personal bias is - he is guilty." Zagel said he accepted the man's assurances in court that he could set aside his preconceptions and focus solely on the evidence.

Those kept in the jury pool won't necessarily end up in the jury box because both sides retain the right to dismiss some jurors without providing the judge a reason. The defense can do so 13 times while the prosecution has nine peremptory challenges.

Jury selection is an inexact science. Blagojevich lawyers may in some cases prefer jurors with a dim view of politicians if it means they're more likely to accept a long-held defense argument: that the twice-elected governor was merely engaged in wheeling and dealing that - while sometimes unseemly - is legal and par for the course in politics.

Blagojevich himself has seemed closely involved scrutinizing potential panelists, scribbling notes on a yellow pad as would-be jurors answered questions. His wife, Patti, also has taken detailed notes sitting on a nearby spectators' bench.

Those still in the jury pool include a former state prosecutor, a substitute teacher who said she didn't like her job and a recently retired maintenance man who told the court how he once saved up $1,500 to pay to drive a Formula One racecar 177 mph.

Another person Zagel refused to dismiss was a man convicted of assault and battery who had to attend an anger-management course as part of his sentence. The man, holding a microphone as he answered the judge's questions, hesitated when Zagel asked if those courses had helped.

"You didn't stand up and throw the mic at me, so it helped a little," Zagel said, smiling.

Zagel has said he wants to have 12 jurors and several alternates impaneled by Wednesday, meaning opening arguments could start that day or Thursday. The retrial is not expected to last as long as the first 2 1/2-month trial, in part because prosecutors have streamlined their case by dropping complex racketeering charges.

(Photo by Robert Wildeboer/IPR)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Ind. Ban on Synthetic Marijuana Nears Approval

Synthetic marijuana known as spice or K2 would be banned under a bill that is close to gaining approval in the Indiana Legislature.

The state Senate is scheduled on Monday to consider final passage of the bill, which would treat possessing or dealing synthetic marijuana the same as the real drug. The House earlier unanimously approved the bill that lists 25 chemical compounds used to make the substance often sold as incense.

Several Indiana counties have local ordinances banning the substance from stores, but supporters say a state law criminalizing it is needed. Health officials and police have urged lawmakers to ban it because of adverse reactions such as increased heart rate and hallucinations.

If the Senate approves the bill, it would go to the governor for consideration.


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