Murray Hooper was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for a double murder committed during a robbery. According to court documents Murray Hopper and two accomplices forced their way into a home where they would shoot three people inside of the home. One would survive and later identified the three suspects. Murray Hooper was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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On the evening of December 31, 1980, William Bracy and Murray Hooper (both of whom were from Chicago), and Edward McCall (a former Phoenix police officer) went to the Home of Patrick Redmond in Phoenix. Mr. Redmond, his wife, and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, were at home preparing for a New Year’s Eve party. Bracy, Hooper, and McCall entered the house at gunpoint and forced the Redmonds and Mrs. Phelps into the master bedroom.
After taking jewelry and money, the intruders bound and gagged the victims. They then shot each victim in the head and also slashed Mr. Redmond’s throat. Mr. Redmond and Mrs. Phelps died from their wounds, but Mrs. Redmond survived and later identified all three killers. Bracy and Hooper were convicted of the murders following a joint trial. McCall and Robert Cruz (who was alleged to have hired the killers) were also convicted of the murders following a joint trial. Cruz won a new trial on appeal, was convicted again, won another new trial on appeal, and was ultimately found not guilty. Joyce Lukezic (the wife of Mr. Redmond’s business partner) was also charged with the murders, and was convicted in a separate trial. After obtaining a new trial, she was found not guilty.
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federal appeals court on Monday strongly criticized an earlier Illinois Supreme Court decision as it ordered a new hearing for a former Chicago hit man to determine whether jury selection at his 1981 murder trial was tainted by racism.
The Cook County jury trial of Murray Hooper, now 67, was held before Judge Thomas J. Maloney, who was convicted in 1993 of taking bribes to fix cases.
Hooper was a killer for the Royal Family street gang, a now-vanished group that formed in Stateville prison in the early 1970s and was thought to be responsible for more than 30 murders, including that of a woman who hired them to kill her husband but was herself slain after her spouse offered more money. Hooper is on death row in Arizona for two Phoenix murders.
Monday’s ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had nothing to do with Hooper’s guilt or innocence. He and two others were convicted of the 1980 murders of three drug dealers whose bodies were found in a car parked several blocks from what was then Chicago police headquarters.
The federal appeals court addressed only the procedure by which Hooper, who is black, was convicted. It found that the Illinois Supreme Court made “at least four errors” in affirming Maloney’s opinion that prosecutors properly removed potential jurors who were black.
Cook County prosecutors struck every potential black juror — seven from a pool of 63, according to the appellate ruling. Two were removed for cause, while prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove the remaining five possible jurors who were black. Six Asian or white jurors also were struck.
Among the errors made by the Supreme Court, the appeals court found, was finding that a claim for racial discrimination could be undermined by the race of the participants in the case.
“The Supreme Court of Illinois seems to have thought that using race in jury selection is tolerable as long as the defendant, victims and witnesses all are of the same race,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the unanimous panel. “That’s a serious legal blunder.”
The appeals court emphasized that its opinion did not establish that prosecutors had removed jurors for racial reasons, only that a hearing on Hooper’s claims was warranted.
Prosecutors can opt for a hearing on the jury selection claims or could offer Hooper another trial, though the federal appeals court noted that both would be difficult now that 30 years have passed.
The Illinois attorney general’s office, which handled the federal appeal, is reviewing the ruling, spokeswoman Maura Possley said.