William Beavers files appeal for new trial

January 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Just as the prisons are full of inmates who maintain they are innocent, courthouses overflow with defendants who contend they were robbed of their rights. On Wednesday, the burly William Beavers is claiming both in his appeal.

Beavers' appeal for a new trial involves race. Lawyers for beavers-- who is African American--say it was unfair that he was convicted by an all-white jury, and they say, illegal.

"I'm not a criminal. I haven't stolen a dime," said Beavers.

It wasn't a dime, it was more than $300,000 in campaign and public funds that Beavers spent on himself, mostly in the casinos.

Despite his boisterous insistence that he did nothing wrong, 12 federal jurors were unanimous that he did.

But on Wednesday, Beavers' appeal attacks the make-up of the jury, noting that the jury pool had zero African American men from which to choose; an exclusion that they say violated Beavers' right to a jury composed of a fair cross-section of the community.

At the federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minn., the ex-alderman and county commissioner is in the second month of a six-month sentence. But back at the Dirksen Federal Building, his motion for a new trial suggests he might never have been convicted were it not for a "systematic exclusion of black men in the district" to serve on juries, because they say prospective jurors were pulled from voter registration records where black males disproportionately underrepresented.

Bolstering Mr. Beavers appeal is this: the jury rules changed just after he was convicted, a change aimed at widening the pool of possible jurors. Instead of picking names only from voter rolls, the federal courts now use driver's license and state ID lists as well. Beavers' lawyers say that if the new rules had been in place for his trial, the jury might not have been all white.

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