CHICAGO — After a week-long interruption because of COVID-19, the Ed Burke trial is set to resume Thursday.
The judge in the high-profile case wants jury selection wrapped up by noon on Thursday and opening statements took place in the afternoon.
She got her wish with 12 jurors and four alternates being selected after lunch Thursday.
One week ago, Judge Virginia Kendall announced this trial would be delayed after a defense attorney tested positive for COVID-19. At the beginning of Thursday, she addressed all parties saying she hoped everyone was feeling well.
One potential juror was excused after testing positive for COVID-19.
Former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke and his wife Anne arrived at the Dirksen Federal Building around 8 a.m. on Thursday. This is the second week of his high-profile corruption trial.
He is charged with 14 counts of racketeering, bribery, and extortion. Prosecutors say he abused his public office for private gain, but withholding permits unless business owners used his private law firm for tax appeals – among other alleged schemes.
Burke has pleaded not guilty as have his co-defendants.
WGN legal analyst Paul Lisnek says while the opening statements will lay out each case – the real impact on jurors comes when evidence and witness testimony presented.
“Research over the years is pretty interesting, which is that most jurors are not impacted greatly by the statements of arguments of the lawyers,” he said. “Lawyers love to believe that they’re very persuasive, they can convince anybody of anything – and I’m not saying they’re not good – but the research would suggest that jurors begin to lean in their position when the evidence begins.”
In opening statements, U.S. Assistant Attorney Tim Chapman said during this trial, jurors will go behind office doors, seeing and hearing how former alderman Ed Burke offered to sell his official position with the city of Chicago in exchange for law firm business.
Through two years of wire tap phone calls and videos, the FBI attained by using former alderman Danny Solis as an informant. Solis earning the nickname “the undercover alderman” and “the council mole.”
The alleged schemes involved a Burger King, a Binny’s, the old main post office, and the field museum.
Chapman told the jury that over six weeks, they would hear in Burke’s own words how he allegedly withheld permits from businesses until they paid his private law firm.
In the case of the old post office, the prosecution says burke became fixated on earning the developer’s business, engaging in ongoing solicitation of bribes in exchange for getting building permits through city council, as the powerful head of the finance committee.
In his opening statement, Defense Attorney Chris Gair says Burke was a hard working alderman and public servant of the city for 54 years, who never asked for money or legal business from anyone, rather helped people cut through the bureaucracy at city hall.
Gair called the allegations a whole pack of lies and accused Solis of working with the feds to keep himself out of prison.