Lawyer on trial for letting suspect use cellphone in interrogation room
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org November 27, 2012 9:52PM
Sladjana Vuckovic | Chicago Police Department photo
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:35AM
The trial of a lawyer charged with letting her murder-suspect client use her cellphone in an Area 2 interrogation room two years ago started Tuesday with testimony from a Chicago Police officer who made the suspect get off the phone.
The video recording in the interrogation room had been turned off to maintain attorney-client privilege for suspect Timothy Herring Jr. and his lawyer, Sladjana Vuckovic. But when Lt. Brendan Deenihan walked by and heard the voice, he said Herring Jr. appeared to be talking to himself.
“It was a one-way conversation, which was odd since he was with his attorney,” Deenihan testified Tuesday, describing what he heard before he peered in and saw Herring chatting on Vuckovic’s cellphone. Herring had been arrested in connection with the fatal shootings of Chicago Police evidence technician Michael Flisk and former CHA Police Officer Stephen Peters.
Investigators will never know if or how Herring used those phone calls to advance his own case, Cook County prosecutors argued at the opening of Vuckovic’s trial.
Vuckovic, a CTA lawyer who was acting as a First Defense Legal Aid volunteer when she counseled Herring, is accused of bringing contraband to a penal institution, a charge that her attorney claims is excessive.
Jurors in Judge Evelyn Clay’s courtroom weren’t told that Herring was eventually charged with killing Flisk and Peters, but they learned that Vuckovic’s phone had 23 outgoing calls and three incoming calls when she privately met with Herring on Nov. 27 and Nov 28, 2010. Two of the incoming calls, which lasted between five and six minutes, were from a blocked caller, assistant state’s attorney Michael Golden said.
“Nobody knows who was being talked to or what was said,” Golden said.
But Vuckovic’s lawyer said his client was only trying to grant Herring his rights by allowing him to reach out to family and friends.
“She said, ‘Let them hear your voice . . . but do not talk about your case,’ ” Leonard Goodman said.
All three police officers called as witnesses by prosecutors Tuesday admitted that they never told Vuckovic that she would be violating general police orders by taking her phone inside nor were there any signs telling her so in the station, now known as Area South.
Goodman questioned how an interrogation room could be defined as a penal institution because Herring had not been charged when he met Vuckovic and why Deenihan didn’t immediately seize Vuckovic’s phone.
Vuckovic was slapped with a felony four months later. Perhaps, Goodman concluded, police decided to make “an example” of Vuckovic.
Vuckovic, 44, is expected to take the stand in her defense on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Herring, 21, is awaiting trial in the murder of Flisk and Peters.