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26th and Cal courthouse gets a pre-Hudson Trial cleanup

Cook County Criminal Courts 2601 S. CaliforniBlvd. Wednesday January 25  2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

Cook County Criminal Courts, 2601 S. California Blvd., Wednesday, January 25, 2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: May 22, 2012 8:09AM



It’s dingy and well-used — the 26th and California criminal courthouse — but crews were busy this week working to spruce the place up a bit just in time for a certain high-profile murder trial.

While the work’s officially described as part of routine maintenance at the building, one source who works for the county says that everything from the washed windows — done just a few times a year — to powerwashing pigeon poop from a dock area that leads to a private entrance leaves “no doubt, it’s all for the Hudson trial.”

Another source who walked through the courtroom where William Balfour will be tried beginning Monday on charges he killed three of singer-actress Jennifer Hudson’s relatives said the floors were clean and gleaming and the wooden benches were damp.

Hudson is expected to bypass the public entrance on South California Avenue — for security purposes, officials say —and enter the courthouse through a back door free from paparazzi.

And, apparently, grime.

A total of six painters — four on Thursday and two Friday — cleaned and painted a dock area with an entrance leading to a lower level lobby area. The lobby was getting the wash-and-paint treatment, too. The dock, which previously stunk of Dumpster, reeked Friday of bleach.

Also on Friday, a sheriff’s spokesman confirmed, the parking area near the dock was mopped by defendants serving community service sentences.

“Twice a year they do exterior painting in preparation for the spring season, and then the winter season, which includes items such as curb painting, parking lot striping, cleaning around refuse containers and dock maintenance,” said Liane Jackson, a spokeswoman for county board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The courthouse also got scrub back in 2006, leading up to the trial of R&B superstar R. Kelly, who was acquitted in 2008 when the case finally went to the jury.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans insisted at the time that the new wiring and carpeting in the Kelly courtroom — which also will host the Balfour trial — was part of a long-term plan to update the building.

Kelly and his sizeable entourage entered the Criminal Courts building through its original brass entrance a little north of the current security doors on California Avenue, which was off-limits before and has remained unused since.

Not even Oprah Winfrey ­— who sat on a jury in a murder trial in 2004 — got her own entrance.



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