Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Before You Judge, Part 3

Before you read this post, please read Parts 1 and 2 first.

First impressions can be very powerful. First impressions can be very right. Or first impressions can be very wrong.

My first impression of the cast of characters in the Austin Gay murder trial was both right and wrong. When I walked into the courtroom for my juror interview, it was difficult to see all the attorneys and their clients.

Once I was called up to the jury box and before being interviewed by the attorneys, I was immediately able to form a quick first impression.

As I looked out from my seat in the jury box, there was one large table closest to the jurors at which three members of the prosecution sat. State Attorney Jerry Blair was the lead prosecutor, and his two assistants with Len Register and Bob Dekle. All three handled portions of the trial, but Jerry Blair was a charismatic speaker who really held our attention.

The defense consisted of four tables, one for each of the defendants and their attorneys. When I looked out at the four tables, I tried to guess who were the defendants and who were the attorneys. In the far back right corner was a table with a lawyer looking man and an older grey haired Hispanic looking man, whom I guessed was the defendant. I was right. The attorney was Tom Stone and his client was Joseph Sallas who was accused of being the hired hit man. Prior to his arrest, Sallas had worked as a building inspector for the city of Chicago.

In the back left corner, I recognized attorney Victor Africano who had defended Ted Bundy in the Kimberly Leach murder. There were two other men at that table, and I guessed that the balding blond man in the middle was probably the defendant. I was correct. The defendant was Robert David Domberg who was accused of being the head of the drug ring and the mastermind of the crimes. Domberg had been a relatively successful businessman outside his drug dealings. He owned three (I think?) NAPA auto parts stores in the Chicago area.

At the center table was a man who immediately intimidated me with his looks. He looked like he might be part native American with bushy dark hair and equally bushy eyebrows. His face was hard looking like he might have done time at one time and I guessed him to be the defendant. The other man at the table was a very young, thin man with glasses. Again, I was right. The defendant was Billy Jim Cherry who was accused of being a hired hit man also. His attorney was Blair Payne. Later we found out that Billy Jim Cherry had previously served time for 2nd degree murder and was a truck driver living in Georgia at the time of his arrest.

Finally, at the closest of the defendants tables, there was a clean cut, handsome man in his thirties who smiled slightly at the jurors and an older thin man with long hair. I guessed that the older man was the defendant and the young man was his attorney. I was wrong. The young man was Ed McCabe who was accused along with Domberg of plotting the murder and running the drug operation. The older man was his attorney, Bob Adams. Prior to turning to drug dealing, Ed McCabe had been a detective with the Chicago police force.

Finally on the bench was Judge Arthur Lawrence, a very kindly looking middle aged man. Because of the complexity of the trial with four defendants and multiple charges, Judge Lawrence allowed each of us to have a legal pad and pen to take notes.

These were the people to whom I would be watching and listening for nearly every week day for the next two months.

I should note that although I did not know it at the time, Adams, Stone, and Payne were all court appointed attorneys. Only Victor Africano was hired by his client, Robert David Domberg. Also I found out later that my father knew Tom Stone. Stone was a small town attorney who did title work for the title insurance company that my father worked for.

The next diary will try to briefly summarize the trial.

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