The Crusader Newspaper Group

Jury foreman called trial a ‘coverup’ after Maggette convicted of criminal charges

Juror seating as seen from the judge’s bench in the Leighton Criminal Court Building. (Photo courtesy Circuit Court of Cook County)

Oscar Morales, 20, could not sleep after voting to convict Dashonn Maggette. He was one of 12 jurors who on Friday, June 30, convicted Maggette of two serious criminal charges after two long days of deliberations following an intense trial that lasted a week at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building.

Less than 24 hours after the verdict, Morales called the proceedings “a coverup” and said he regretted voting to convict Maggette of armed habitual and battery of a police officer.

It was a trial where Maggette’s public defender requested, but was denied three times, her request for a mistrial, after two police officers gave shifting testimonies and prosecutors presented no fingerprint evidence to prove Maggette had, or held a gun during a scuffle with police officers in an apartment building in Chatham in 2017.

That hallway scuffle began after Officers Patrick Forbes and Michael Hudson drove past Maggette and a group of friends who were hanging outside an apartment building in the 8100 block of S. Maryland. Maggette, who was violating his curfew after completing parole for a drug conviction in 2016, ran into an apartment building.

Forbes and Hudson followed him up several flights of stairs. Maggette suffered three gunshot wounds after Forbes fired three shots while on the third floor. Both officers said Maggette had a gun and shot Hudson in the hand.

Maggette said he did not have a gun. He was denied a copy of the ballistics test report that presiding Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Lawrence Flood kept sealed for six years while Maggette languished in Cook County Jail awaiting trial. After numerous delays, that trial finally got underway June 26. Judge Flood, a former Chicago police officer himself, presided over the proceedings.

The first day began with jury selection, where just one Black juror from Phoenix, Illinois, who has two relatives who are state troopers, was chosen. Morales, who was among the 12 jurors, served as the jury foreman.

Throughout the trial Karin Talwar, Maggette’s public defender, faced difficulty presenting her case because Judge Flood overruled her objections numerous times as Forbes and Hudson made statements different from those in the official report from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

During the proceedings, prosecutors revealed Maggette’s DNA was found on the gun, but no fingerprints of Maggette and even the police officers were taken from the gun that Forbes and Hudson said Maggette allegedly used to shoot Hudson.

Maggette and his relatives believe his DNA came into contact with the gun when he fought with Hudson and Forbes on the building’s third floor. The author of the ballistic test report that Judge Flood kept sealed from the media to view, said the examination ruled out that Maggette had a gun. No other details of the sealed ballistic report were revealed in court.

At one point during the trial, one prosecutor blurted out that Maggette was a convicted felon. Judge Flood asked the jury to disregard the statement.

There is concern among Maggette’s relatives that the prosecutor’s “mistake” was actually planned, to help convince jurors Maggette was guilty of being an armed habitual criminal. This charge usually involves an ex-felon with 2 or more convictions for forcible felony; unlawful use of a weapon; any violation of the Illinois Controlled Substance Act or Cannabis Control Act while in the unlawful possession of a firearm.

Maggette’s relatives also believe the trial was rigged from the beginning to produce a guilty verdict as Judge Flood limited Talwar’s ability to defend her client, while allowing prosecutors to fully present their case, overruling Talwar’s objections to many questions by the state.

At one point Talwar said the trial was “tainted.” Talwar asked for a mistrial three times because Judge Flood numerous times overruled her objections, the police officers’ alleged false testimonies, and the moments surrounding the announcement of the verdict where jurors were summoned to the courtroom without officially having a signed verdict.

There are questions as to why Judge Flood continues to keep the ballistic report sealed. The sealed report has never been viewed by Maggette, his relatives, the Crusader or other media since test results were released in 2017. There are questions as to whether the ban will remain in place when prosecutors seek to try Maggette again for attempted murder charges.

After over 16 hours of deliberation, Morales and fellow jurors voted to convict Maggette of battery of an officer and armed habitual, a Class X felony. It’s a serious offense just short of first-degree murder and could send Maggette to prison for up to 30 years.

It could get even worse for Maggette as prosecutors seek to retry him on three charges, including attempted murder after a hung jury caused a partial mistrial.

But less than 24 hours after the jury delivered its verdict, Morales at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, called a Crusader journalist’s cell phone number that he found on an old Twitter account. He left a long message on the journalist’s voicemail, wanting to talk about his thoughts and feelings about the trial.

When the Crusader called Morales, he made bombshell statements about the trial and his experience as a juror. He said he couldn’t sleep the Friday night after voting to convict Maggette of armed habitual and the battery on a police officer.

Morales told the Crusader Maggette did not get a fair trial.

“I don’t believe so. I feel like the judge was leaning on the prosecution side than the defendant. That’s my opinion,” Morales told the Crusader. “There was a part of me that felt like the judge was looking for a particular decision.

“For him (Judge Flood), I felt it was a closed case from the beginning. It shouldn’t have taken us that long because he kept saying he wanted the trial wrapped up by Thursday.

“I felt that he (Judge Flood) was rushing it. We all felt that he wanted us to make a quick decision.

Morales told the Crusader that after the trial he went home and spoke to his cousins about the proceedings.

“They were interested and wanted to know about it. I couldn’t tell them before [the trial] but after it was over, we had a conference call and I told them about it. I just feel like they [Judge Flood, prosecutors and police officers] were covering up something. It’s like they know what they were doing.”

“It was like they were trying to minimize a mistake they had made. Someone screwed up, and I felt in the end I helped them succeed in their coverup.

“We were asking why they didn’t take the fingerprints from the gun they claim Dashonn had. It would have been a clear and cut case. They said they don’t usually check for fingerprints. We didn’t believe this.”

Morales told the Crusader he and another juror initially believed Maggette did not have a gun during the scuffle. Morales said during the trial he looked at “grainy” video of the incident as it unfolded.

“You can see Dashonn running through the building. I was trying to see if there was a gun on him in his back, but I didn’t see it.

“The majority [of the jurors] said there had to be a gun. They were saying that, but I’m not sure if they actually looked to find it like I did.

Morales also said “The day before the verdict, we all agreed that he was not guilty of attempted murder because he had no intent. But the alternative juror (who came in Friday, June 30) believed he had [a gun] and so we came to an impasse.

“Even though I believe Dashonn did not have a gun, I and another juror gave in and agreed that he had a firearm. I wish I had stuck with my gut feeling and held out from deciding he’s guilty. I would have felt a lot better.”

Before and during the trial, Judge Flood told the jurors not to watch or read news articles on Maggette’s case. He also told them to weigh the testimony of police officers in the trial on the same level as any other witness.

But Morales said when he was unable to sleep the night after the verdict, he got on his computer and Googled Maggette’s name before several stories appeared. He came across several Crusader articles on the case, including the one about Judge Flood keeping the ballistic report sealed and his background as a former Chicago police officer.

“It made sense,” Morales told the Crusader. “Looking back, I felt that had we had access to the ballistic test report and they had presented that report in court, it would have been a fair trial and the outcome would have been different. It would have been easier to prove that Dashonn did not have a gun. That’s the heart of this case.

“I felt that if we had the ballistic report, justice would have prevailed.”

Morales said he also read a Crusader article that reported on Forbes and Hudson having complaint records alleging civil rights violations by residents.

“When I read that, it kind of made some sense why he [Flood] overruled her objections so much.”

During the trial, Forbes alleged Maggette hit him after he struck him with a flashlight. Forbes also said he hit Maggette with the flashlight after Maggette allegedly pushed his hand away and hit Forbes three times. A cell phone video of the incident and the COPA report do not show any of this. But the video does show Maggette hitting Forbes after he was struck with the officer’s flashlight.

“I felt that Maggette hit Forbes back out of self-defense. I felt that he (Maggette) didn’t want to, but he had to.”

During both officers’ testimonies on the witness stand Morales said, “I believed Hudson more than Forbes. About seven or eight jurors trusted Hudson than they did Forbes. Personally, I didn’t believe Forbes at all.”

Morales told the Crusader, “When I was reading the Crusader article, I was thinking a lot of people put police officers on a pedestal. But I felt that I voted to protect criminals [Forbes and Hudson].”

Talwar moved for a mistrial after Forbes made several statements that contradicted his story given to COPA after the shooting in 2017. Judge Flood denied her request.

Talwar also requested a mistrial moments before Morales gave the verdict. There was confusion as to whether Morales as the jury foreman was ready to announce the verdict from the jurors.

Morales told the Crusader that he and the jurors decided to convict Maggette on two charges but left the verdict unsigned just in case any of the jurors decided to change their mind while they were in deliberation.

He said that’s when the bailiff came and told them that Judge Flood wanted them back in the courtroom. Once there, Morales said he told Judge Flood that they had not signed the verdict form. He said that’s when Judge Flood sent them back to the deliberation room to sign the verdict form.

Once the jurors were out of the courtroom, Talwar asked Judge Flood for a mistrial after being told jurors had a verdict. Judge Flood denied her request before the jurors came back to the courtroom to announce the verdict.

“We heard a lot of commotion going on in the courtroom, but we didn’t know what it was about.”

When he read the verdict out loud to the court, Morales, a young curlyhead individual, was shaking and his voice cracked as he spoke.

In most trial cases, once the jury has reached a unanimous decision or is incurably deadlocked, the jury will inform the bailiff, judge, and attorneys. The verdict will be written on a verdict form and signed by each juror. This completed verdict form will be given to the clerk of the court to read aloud. After hearing the verdict, the judge will ask the foreperson of the jury if the verdict is correct—if that is what the jury unanimously decided (or that deadlock was reached and could not be broken).

A verdict cannot be coerced, because the jury must decide the case based upon the facts—not the judge’s (or jurors’) desire to conclude the case.

Morales said he called the Crusader because he “felt guilty. I couldn’t really sleep. That was my conscience bothering me. That’s why I called you at 3:00 in the morning. I didn’t see that he (Maggette) had a gun. “

I feel like I’m doing what’s right. We all knew he (Judge Flood) was going to continue overruling Dashonn’s attorney. It was a running joke among the jurors because it happened so frequently. I also believe he was trying to protect the police officers.”

Recent News

Scroll to Top