Judge Blasted During Mob Trial Hearing

A U.S. Appellate Court judge called Judge Zagel's dealing with a Family Secrets juror "foolish"

By Phil Rogers
|  Monday, Feb 13, 2012  |  Updated 3:26 PM CDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Family Secrets Verdict

(L to R) Frank Calabrese Sr., Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello

advertisement
Photos and Videos

Nick Calabrese Gets 12 Years

A man who admitted to 14 murders -- and helped the feds build a case against his fellow mobsters -- gets a far lighter sentence than the men he testified against.

Family Secrets Verdict

Sept. 10, 2007: A federal jury in Chicago returns guilty verdicts on all counts, including key racketeering and conspiracy charges, against all five defendants in the historic Family Secrets mob case.
More Photos and Videos

A U.S. Appellate Court judge blasted Judge James Zagel on Monday for his stewardship of the Family Secrets mob trial, calling “foolish” Zagel’s dealings with a juror who had expressed fears about her personal safety.

The remarks by 7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood came during a hearing by a group of convicted mobsters seeking to have their cases overturned. Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese and others contend they were subjected to double jeopardy in the case, and that their attorneys never had adequate opportunity to question the frightened juror.

At issue was juror #14, who reportedly expressed fears for her safety early in the trial. Zagel told lawyers in the case’s seventh week that he had excused the juror after she felt “uncomfortable” in the high-profile murder case.

“There was prejudice here,” said Lombardo’s lawyer Frank Lipuma. “Judge Zagel had far too many contacts with this juror.”

Lipuma and the other lawyers argued they should have had a chance to question the juror, to find out if she had expressed her fears to other members of the panel. And Judge Wood, who was recently considered a prime candidate for a Supreme Court nomination, seemed to agree.

“Don’t you find it a little remarkable that the judge was wandering in and out of the jury room?” Wood asked. “This seems to be an invitation to trouble.”

“Judge Zagel’s approach was a little foolish,” she said. Fellow judge Diane Sykes likewise wondered aloud if the juror’s “reasons for needing to be excused spilled over to the remainder of the jury.”

Appellate judges often ask very pointed questions during oral arguments, and most observers caution that those inquiries should not be considered hints of how the judges will later rule. But after court, attorney Lipuma seemed encouraged by Wood’s criticisms of Zagel’s courtroom procedure. 

“Judge Wood, of course, was on the short list of Supreme Court nominees,” he said. “Of course, a brilliant mind. I could not agree with her assessment any more.”

Wood, a former professor at the University of Chicago Law School, was nominated to the Seventh Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1995. She was a candidate to replace Justice David Souter, when he left the Supreme Court in 2009. That seat went to Sonia Sotomayor, but Wood was vetted again when Justice John Paul Stevens stepped down a year later. That seat went to then-U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Get Our Weather App
Stay ahead of the storm with the NBC... Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out