Cellini juror with criminal record explodes at defense questioning
Former juror Candy Chiles leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse after a hearing today. Chiles, a 50-year-old daycare provider, was called in for a post-trial hearing in William Cellini's case after she was accused of misleading the court about her past. (William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune)
"You're trying to see if I'm a liar so you can get him off?" juror Candy Chiles, a 50-year-old daycare provider, asked as her voice choked with emotion. "Leave me alone! Leave me alone!"
After the judge called an immediate recess, Chiles quickly walked out of the courtroom, shaking her head and muttering about the defense team.
It was her third blowup at Cellini’s attorney, Dan Webb, during his pointed, hour-long examination, which centered on whether she knew she was being untruthful when she told the court she had not been arrested or convicted of a crime. In fact, she has two felony convictions and another arrest on her record.
"Do not do me like this. Do not do me like this," she said. "I am not a criminal. I didn't steal anything ... damn you."
U.S. District Judge James Zagel -- who did not order background checks on potential jurors before the high-profile trial -- called the hearing today to determine if Chiles' equivocations denied Cellini a fair trial.
Chiles, who said she was hoping not be selected for jury duty, said that she didn’t reveal a 2000 drug conviction because she had put the incident behind her.
"It's in my past. I never mention it at all, that foolishness in my life," she said.
Chiles also did not tell the court about a felony DUI conviction in 2008 and an assault arrest in 1994. She initially told the judge that she didn't know why she didn't disclose those cases but later said that she was confused and nervous about jury selection.
Zagel said Chiles hadn’t been truthful in her answers to the court during jury selection.
"I think it's pretty clear ... you did not give complete answers to these questions,” the judge said. “In a way, you did not follow the instructions of the court to answer truthfully.”
But lying on a jury questionnaire is not enough to overturn a conviction.
The defense must prove that the juror had bias or prejudice toward the judicial process.
As she answered questions from the jury box in Zagel’s courtroom, Chiles insisted she had been fair to Cellini and had followed all other jury instructions.
Cellini’s lawyers are seeking a new trial based in part on revelations in a Nov. 11 Tribune story that Chiles failed to disclose that she had felony convictions for crack possession in 2000 and aggravated driving under the influence in 2008.
Cellini, whose high-profile trial was the last from a federal probe that snared former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and several top advisers, was convicted in November of attempting to extort a Hollywood producer who wanted to keep his lucrative business with the state.