George Ryan Trial, Part 4
Today was interesting in only one respect. The testimony and cross was laborious and boring, but fireworks resulted from a request by the defense to admit into evidence the fact that Ryan was not paying for his defense out of his pocket. Rather, his representation was provided pro bono from the prestigious law firm Winston and Strawn, of which former Republican Governor James Thompson is the managing partner.
The defense wanted to make sure that the jury knew that Ryan was living a modest life with hardly any money and owned nothing more than a smallish house in downstate Illinois. Ryan is not a high-roller who has pocketed large amounts of bribes as characterized by the prosecution, the defense team argues, but rather a simple man who was not able to bankroll a huge defense team. Prosecutors objected because they indicated they have never referred to the defense team’s cost or number of attorneys in any manner.
Judge Pallmeyer was reluctant to allow such testimony, not because she objected to that information be given to the jury, but because of where that testimony might lead and how it may backfire on the defense. She posed the question to the defense “After giving that information, do you want to explain why Ryan is given this ‘golden’ defense team while normal citizens are not afforded the same pro bono representation?” Pallmeyer took the suggestion under advisement.
At the beginning of today’s trial, the prosecution wanted the jurors polled as to their knowledge of articles in the Chicago Tribune that would lay out the pro bono work done by the Ryan defense team. The prosecution was particularly concerned over the statement of Jim Thompson in one of the articles that “George Ryan is literally on trial for his life.” While Pallmeyer did again warn the jury about news articles and outside source information, she did not question jurors specifically about the articles.
The articles in question stated that the full-time 16 member defense team was being provided to Ryan pro bono as an example of Winston and Strawn’s commitment to their continued involvement in the most important cases in Chicago. Jim Thompson advised that the defense team had at least $10 million in billable defense spending in addition to $370,000 in actual expenses as of September, which part was being paid for by the Ryan Defense Fund. It is believed that the total pro bono work will total in the area of $25-30 million dollars upon conclusion.
Most of the testimony today involved a cross examination by Edward Genson, the attorney for Ryan’s co-defendant Larry Warner. Genson’s cross was obviously designed to show the jury that while a friend of Ryan’s received state work, the money paid was for a job well done and was to the benefit of the state of Illinois and not the result of any “sweetheart” deal among cronies.
A comment by another observer was that the cross examination was “mind numbing.”