Stories by Matt Masterson

Guilty Verdict for Homeless Man Charged With Killing Off-Duty Chicago Officer

A Cook County jury has found Jovan Battle, 32, guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm for the March 23 killing of Chicago Officer John Rivera.

R. Kelly is a No-Show at Cook County Court Hearing

In this June 6, 2019 file photo, singer R. Kelly appears at a court hearing before Judge Lawrence Flood in Chicago. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

R. Kelly refused transport Thursday to the Leighton Criminal Court Building, where he faces several criminal sexual charges, according to a Cook County prosecutor.

Judge Lifts Decorum Order in Jason Van Dyke Case, Freeing Up Last Documents

Prosecutor Joe McMahon at the sentencing hearing of former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 in Chicago. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / Pool)

Until this week, 18 documents from the landmark case had remained under seal, even though the former officer was convicted 10 months ago for the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Witness Describes Moments Leading to Chicago Officer’s Fatal Shooting

Chicago Police Officer John Rivera (Chicago Police Department)

After a night out with friends in River North, off-duty Chicago police Officer John Rivera apparently realized a dangerous situation was unfolding. Moments later, the 23-year-old was fatally shot inside his vehicle.

Man Charged in Officer’s Killing Claims He’s a ‘Victim’ Because He Tried to Help

CPD Officer John Rivera was fatally shot inside his car earlier this year

Jovan Battle (Chicago Police Department)

The first of three men charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Chicago police Officer John Rivera is going to trial this week. Jovan Battle, 32, is acting as his own attorney while facing a first-degree murder charge.

Fact-Finder’s Report Sheds Light on CTU Contract Negotiations With City

As the Chicago Teachers Union and Board of Education continue to negotiate a new contract, an independent fact-finder recommends a 16% pay raise for Chicago teachers over the life of a five-year deal.

Mother of Man Fatally Shot by Chicago Police Suing City for Wrongful Death

Body camera footage released last month shows the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Sharell Brown by Chicago police officers. (Civilian Office of Police Accountability)

Latricia Brown is seeking damages for what she claims is the wrongful death of her son, 26-year-old Sharell Brown, who was shot and killed in May during an encounter with police.

UIC Students Believe Hundreds Kept from Voting in Student Election

(Tony Webster / Flickr)

A new report from a group of UIC students claims at least 450 predominantly international students received incomplete ballots or were erroneously told they were ineligible to vote in April’s student government election.

Finding Yingying Zhang’s Remains ‘May Be Impossible’ Family Says After New Details Surface

A memorial stone engraved with Yingying Zhang’s name in both English and Chinese on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Aug. 7, 2019.  (Matt Masterson / WTTW News)

After killing the Chinese scholar, Brendt Christensen says he put her body in three separate garbage bags, which he tossed in a dumpster outside his Champaign apartment.

U. of I. Names Endowment in Honor of Slain Scholar Yingying Zhang

Yingying Zhang, center, takes a photo with her father Ronggao Zhang, left, mother Lifeng Ye and fiance Xiaolin Hou. (U.S. Attorney's Office)

Yingying’s Fund, created with the support of Yingying Zhang’s family, will serve international students across campus and their families “during times of hardship, when they need it most,” according to the fund’s donation page.

Chicago Latino Community Reacts to El Paso Mass Shooting: ‘Words Matter’

People pray at a makeshift memorial Monday, Aug. 5, 2019 for victims of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo / John Locher)

Chicago community leaders are telling President Donald Trump his words matter, days after a gunman slayed more than 20 people, including many Hispanics, inside a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.

R. Kelly’s Attorney Wants Judge to Reconsider Bond Ruling

Musician R. Kelly, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court building for an arraignment on new sex-related felonies Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

Calling the allegations against his client “as stale as used gym socks,” the defense attorney for R&B superstar R. Kelly is asking a federal judge to consider letting Kelly walk free from jail as he faces his latest legal battle.

Judge Won’t Reconsider Special Prosecutor Ruling in Jussie Smollett Case

Jussie Smollett appears at a hearing for judge assignment with his attorney Tina Glandian, left, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool / Chicago Tribune)

The high-profile case won’t be transferred to another court and the judge handling the proceedings has denied Jussie Smollett’s efforts to get involved.

Report: Incarceration Rates Drop Nearly 20% Under Kim Foxx

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Dec. 20, 2018.

A new report analyzes the prosecution practices and case settlements under Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Among the findings: The number of sentences involving prison time fell “significantly” in 2018.

3 Juveniles Charged in Beating of Special Needs Teen in Viral Video

A still image from a video shows multiple girls attacking a 15-year-old girl in a South Side alley. (Twitter)

The teens were taken into custody and charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and mob action, days after a cellphone video of the incident was uploaded online.

Ex-Judge: Smollett’s Lawyers Not Allowed to Practice Law in Illinois

Retired Illinois Appellate Court Judge Sheila O’Brien appears on “Chicago Tonight” on June 24, 2019.

Sheila O’Brien, the retired appellate judge who successfully petitioned for a special prosecutor to review the Jussie Smollett case, says four motions filed last week by the actor’s California-based attorneys should be ignored.

Judge to Unseal Plea Deal in Case of Former NU, Oxford Employees Charged With Murder

Wyndham Lathem, left, and Andrew Warren (Chicago Police Department)

A judge has agreed to make public the details of a plea agreement reached this week between Cook County prosecutors and a former Oxford University staffer who says he’ll testify against an ex-Northwestern University professor at his upcoming murder trial.

Ex-Oxford Staffer Pleads Guilty to Brutal 2017 River North Murder

Andrew Warren to testify against former Northwestern professor

Wyndham Lathem, left, and Andrew Warren (Chicago Police Department)

More than two years after a grizzly slaying that led authorities on a nationwide manhunt, a former Oxford University staffer has pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendant, a former Northwestern University associate professor.

Jussie Smollett’s Attorneys Seeking to Reverse Special Prosecutor Ruling

Jussie Smollett appears at a hearing for judge assignment with his attorney Tina Glandian, left, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool / Chicago Tribune)

Attorneys for the former “Empire” actor continue to proclaim their client’s innocence, and say a judge’s recent decision to allow a special prosecutor to review criminal charges against the actor is a “travesty of justice.”

Brendt Christensen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Yingying Zhang Killing

Jury fails to reach unanimous decision in death-penalty case

A memorial stone engraved with Yingying Zhang’s name in both English and Chinese on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in June 2019, two years after her disappearance. (Photo by Mark Van Moer) Inset, top: Yingying Zhang (Courtesy University of Illinois Police Department). Bottom: Brendt Christensen (Courtesy Macon County Sheriff’s Department).

A 12-person jury deliberated for more than eight hours over the course of two days in Peoria’s federal courthouse, but failed to reach a unanimous decision in the death-penalty case. 

Brendt Christensen Jury Deliberations Begin After Lengthy Closing Arguments

Yingying Zhang disappeared on June 9, 2017. (University of Illinois Police Department). Inset: Brendt Christensen (Macon County Sheriff’s Department)

A 12-person jury is in the process of deciding whether the former Ph.D. candidate will live out the rest of his natural life behind bars or if he’ll be put to death for the kidnapping and killing of Yingying Zhang.

R. Kelly Denied Bond, Pleads Not Guilty to New Federal Charges

In this June 6, 2019 file photo, musician R. Kelly departs the Leighton Criminal Court building after pleading not guilty to 11 additional sex-related charges in Chicago. (AP Photo / Amr Alfiky, File)

The embattled R&B superstar, who has been the subject of sexual assault accusations for decades, won’t be allowed to walk free while facing his latest legal battle.

Jurors Likely to Begin Deliberating Brendt Christensen Sentence This Week

Brendt Christensen (Macon County Sheriff's Department)

More than a month after they first began hearing testimony, jurors in the trial of Brendt Christensen are likely to begin deliberating this week over his appropriate sentence: life in prison or death.

CTU Threatens Teachers Strike in a Month if No Contract Completed

The head of the Chicago Teachers Union is using the “s” word as their negotiators return to the bargaining table Thursday to continue working toward a new contract with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools.

Juror’s Courtroom Exit Highlights Peculiarity of Brendt Christensen Trial

Yingying Zhang, center, stands with her parents at a train station in China in 2017. This marked the last time they saw their daughter alive. (U.S. Attorney's Office)

Defense attorneys called a juror’s actions this week “unprecedented” and sought a mistrial on Wednesday. That request was denied, but the walkout marks one more oddity in the high-profile case.