A prospective juror in the corruption trial of Ed Burke, a former 54-year member of the Chicago City Council, was asked in court to play a word association game, stating the first thing that came to mind when she was given a specific phrase.
The first term: “Chicago politics.” Her response: “Messy.”
Jury selection continued Tuesday for a second day at the Dirksen Federal Building, as attorneys continued working to seat a jury for Burke and his two co-defendants, Peter Andrews and Charles Cui.
Judge Virginia Kendall, along with federal prosecutors and defense attorneys, quizzed members of the juror pool Tuesday ahead of opening statements, which are expected in the coming days.
The process, which began slowly Monday morning, has continued at a leisurely pace throughout Tuesday. As if early Tuesday afternoon, no jurors have been officially seated to hear the case.
“That’s why it takes a long time,” Kendall said Tuesday afternoon after reiterating her goal of impaneling an impartial jury. “It’s really important we get the right people who can be fair and impartial in this case.”
Potential jurors have been questioned about their knowledge of this case, their experiences with alderpersons and where they get their news. They were also asked by Kendall about their social media presence, their hobbies and Thanksgiving plans, and what their relatives do for work.
One prospective juror, a woman who lives in Bartlett and works as a therapist at an outpatient counseling center, was asked by a defense attorney to play a short word association game.
After answering “messy” following a prompt of “Chicago politics,” she answered “political” when asked about “Illinois politics,” adding that she does not follow either very much.
A 52-year-old woman who lives in Hanover Park and has a daughter who works as a suburban police officer was asked if she believed that law enforcement agents are always “truth tellers” when they testify in a case.
“I would hope so,” she said.
Asked if she believed they could lie while under oath, she replied: “It’s possible.”
That woman, who works in customer service, also indicated she would be happy to serve as a juror in this case. When asked why, she replied: “I’ve been at home for three years answering phone calls. Call after call after call.”
Also on Tuesday, a large display in the hallway outside the trial courtroom memorializing past high-profile public corruption cases that have taken place at the courthouse was hidden away from jurors after it was covered up with brown paper. Other displays were also covered and will remain that way through the end of jury selection, according to Kendall. That comes following a request from defense attorneys Monday.
Burke is facing 14 charges, including racketeering, bribery and extortion. If convicted, he could spend what was to be his retirement in federal prison and become the 38th member of the Chicago City Council to be convicted of a crime since 1968.
He’s accused of using his elected office to force those doing business with the city to hire his private law firm.
Andrews, a longtime aide to Burke, is charged with helping the ex-alderperson attempt to extort two businessmen who operated a Burger King restaurant in the 14th Ward. Cui was charged with bribing Burke and will stand trial alongside the former alderperson and his aide.
All three men have pleaded not guilty.
Heather Cherone contributed to this story.