COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — "Sensationalized, pervasive" news coverage of the four people charged with torturing a schizophrenic man on Facebook Live will "poison the jury pool" and make a fair trial impossible, a public defender argued after court Friday.
"It is sad and unfortunate that many have commented on these young men and women without knowing all the facts," Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said. "Sensationalized, pervasive media coverage threatens to poison the jury pool for my clients."
Campanelli addressed press at Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2600 S. California Ave., on Friday morning following a brief hearing for Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; and sisters Brittany and Tanishia Covington, ages 18 and 24, respectively.
The foursome was criminally indicted Friday on allegations they tortured an 18-year-old white man in a West Side apartment by beating the man, forcing him to drink toilet water and insisting he yell, "I love black people," and, "F--- Trump" as he kissed the floor. Much of the abuse was live-streamed on Facebook.
Assistant Public Defender Neil Toppel said he's worried for his clients' safety after "someone put out a death warrant" in a Tumblr post. The post, which appears to have been deleted, advocates publicly executing all four suspects "by mob if not by law," court records show.
Hill, Cooper and the Covington sisters are being held without bail pending trial. Campanelli on Friday said her office is "seeking a release."
"They have already been denounced in the media before anything has been proven," Campanelli said. "And now additional attention is being given, trying them in public before they have their day in court."
On Thursday, Cook County Judge Peggy Chiampas barred cameras from any of the suspects' upcoming court hearings.