Jury gets case of attorney charged with letting suspect use cellphone
Nov 29, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A Cook County jury has begun deliberating this afternoon in the controversial trial of a lawyer accused of letting a suspect in the slaying of a Chicago police officer use her cellphone in an interrogation room.
Sladjana Vuckovic, 44, who is charged with a felony count of bringing contraband into a penal institution, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted and would likely be disbarred from practicing law.
The jury began deliberating at about 3:55 p.m.
In closing arguments this afternoon in Judge Evelyn Clay's packed courtroom, attorneys from both sides acknowledged the unusual nature of the case.
Assistant State's Attorney Michael Golden told jurors that "anyone with common sense" should have known not to let a suspect in custody for murder use a personal cell phone.
"You shouldn't expect that attorneys across the country would be charged with such abysmal behavior," Golden said.
Vuckovic's attorney, Leonard Goldman, countered that common sense should tell jurors that Vuckovic wasn't trying to obstruct the police investigation or "help some suspect cook up an alibi or destroy evidence."
Goldman suggested to jurors that prosecutors were trying to insinuate there was an insidious motive for the calls "to trick you into convicting her based on something that this case is not about."
The comment drew vehement objections from prosecutors.
"Counsel says she didn't know it was wrong " Golden said. "Well maybe somebody should tell her."
Vuckovic was volunteering for a free legal service for indigent suspects when she twice went to the Calumet Area headquarters in November 2010 to meet with Timothy Herring after a relative of his had contacted the legal hotline about his arrest. Herring was undergoing questioning by detectives in the slayings of Officer Michael Flisk and another man.
Vuckovic testified in her own defense Wednesday she had made at least 100 client visits at police stations and had never been told that cellphones were prohibited. She said she was vaguely aware of a state law prohibiting bringing contraband into a penal institution but thought it barred "knives, guns, drugs." She also said that unlike a police lockup where suspects are behind bars, she didn't consider an interrogation room to be a penal institution.
Prosecutors alleged that 26 calls were made from or received by Vuckovic's cell phone during two meetings with Herring, including incoming calls from a number that was blocked.
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