A jury was selected January 11th for the criminal trial of E2 owner Dwain Kyles, one of four men charged in the Chicago nightclub stampede that left 21 dead in February 2003. His trial was expected to begin January 16th.
Along with Kyles’ jury trial, bench trials for co-defendants Calvin Hollins Jr., club manager Calvin Hollins III and Marco Flores were also set to begin January 16th. All four are charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Before the jury was selected, prosecutors tried to bar attorney Raul Villalobos from the case, the Chicago Tribune reported. Villalobos represents Flores, the promoter of the ill-fated party, and prosecutors alleged that he also represents witnesses who worked at the club that night. A Cook County judge denied the motion, the paper said.
Prosecutors said that during the trial they intend to show that the defendants violated a 2002 order to close the club, the Tribune said. But Kyles and Hollins Jr. have said the judge’s order only required them to close the club’s skyboxes above the dance floor.
Officials said it will take more than three weeks to try the case, and about 45-60 witnesses are expected to testify.
Kyles’ lawyer, R. Eugene Pincham, had asked Judge Dennis Porter to delay the trial until after mayoral elections February 27th, saying the stampede was a political issue because it took place shortly before city elections, the Tribune reported.
Villalobos said he expects to show that Flores was not responsible for the mishap because he only rented the space for the party.
The 2003 incident occurred after security allegedly used pepper spray to break up a fight, causing much of the estimated 1,100-person crowd to rush for the door of the now-closed club. About 95 more were injured.
The tragic event also led to several civil suits against the club owners and manager, which were settled for $1.5 million.
The catastrophe has led to citywide changes in safety policies for clubs, with building officials beefing up venue inspections, making occupancy placards visible and seeing that exits are in compliance with city guidelines.