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Aug. 17 Update: Jackson on Trial for Murder
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 5325 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
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Eighteen months after former City of Chicago worker Michael Jackson and cab driver Haroon Paryani became embroiled in an incident that led to the latter's death, Jackson's murder trial began Aug. 15 at 26th and California in the courtroom of Judge James Schreier.

Jackson is charged with murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking for the Feb. 4, 2005, death of Paryani. The two got into a fight over a fare that left Paryani dead near Briar Place and Cambridge Avenue in

Lakeview. Jackson, 38, allegedly ran over the taxi driver three times with his own vehicle.

On the opening day, a jury of nine women and three men listened as Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mercedes Luque-Rosales opined in her opening statement that ' [ l ] ittle did [ Paryani ] know that his shift [ on that day ] would end in murder. Haroon Paryani's murderer sits in this courtroom. What was his weapon of choice? Haroon Paryani's own cab.'

She went on to say that Jackson 'did the unthinkable' after the argument over the fare became physical. 'Haroon Paryani fell down [ and was ] motionless,' she stated. 'Michael Jackson entered the cab, put the car in

drive and aimed the cab at Mr. Paryani. But he just didn't do it once. … He rammed Mr. Paryani again, leaving him in a pool of his own blood. Mr. Jackson then fled into the night, leaving Mr. Paryani in the street.'

On the other hand, the opening statement of Todd Pugh, one of Jackson's attorneys, painted the defendant as an Everyman who was roughed up by a driver who had a history of violence. Contrasting his client with the famous singer who shares his name, Pugh described the defendant as 'just a Michael Jackson who grew up in Peoria, and who was an accountant who worked for the City of Chicago.' Pugh went on to describe Jackson as someone who was having a good day and who casually called to get a taxi—in essence, the last person who would commit murder.

'The state is suggesting that during a four-dollar cab ride, that the defendant went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. It didn't make sense then and it doesn't make sense now. Michael Jackson is no Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; he got into Mr. Hyde's cab that was driven by Haroon Paryani. Haroon Paryani has a history of violence. … [ Paryani ] hated Michael Jackson before he ever stepped inside that cab.' Pugh also said that Paryani terrified

Jackson by shouting expletives such as 'you f—king f-gg-t' and 'you f—king Jew.'

Among the state's witnesses on Aug. 15 was Paryani's widow, Sharifa, who wept while testifying about, among other things, the health of her husband. Tom Breen, the lead defense attorney, attempted to ask her

about allegations concerning Haroon Paryani's suspensions from work, but Schreier sustained Luque-Rosales' objection.

Another witness, Susan Lichtman, testified that she saw Paryani and Jackson grab each other by the shoulders and then push and pull. Lichtman, a writer and former English professor, added that from her first-floor window she saw Jackson get into the cab, and then put his hands on his lap and then on the steering wheel. Lichtman then said that she saw Jackson run over Paryani's body twice; he then was backing up a third time toward Paryani when she left the window to call 911, she testified.

Lichtman seemed quite composed as she gave her testimony. Jackson, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, seemed just as calm as he listened to what she said. Yet another witness who lived in the neighborhood, Alice Weinstein, testified that she saw the cab run over Paryani's body before it drove on Briar and onto Broadway, where the cab 'slammed into a red car.' Weinstein also stated that there was 'plenty of room' for a car to avoid the body. Several of Paryani's family members were present in the courtroom. Among

If found guilty, Jackson could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial is expected to continue through the end of the week.

This article shared 5325 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
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