It's too easy to toss out cliches like "Kafkaesque" when describing a particularly bizarre court case, but trust us on this one: Luke Lamb's impending trial for jury tampering really takes the Kafka cake.
Lamb, a small-time politician running for sheriff in Greene County, Illinois, is awaiting trial on a felony charge for unlawful communication with a juror. The charge stems from a series of public Facebook posts he wrote in January to a friend who'd been selected as a juror in a traffic-stop case.
As we reported earlier this summer, Lamb's posts seemingly encouraged the juror to "nullify" any charges. But the posts caught the attention of Lamb's chief political opponent, current Greene County Sheriff Robert McMillan, who filed the felony charge against Lamb.
This week, the situation got even weirder: On Sunday, Lamb opened his mailbox to find a jury summons for October 20, the same day as his own trial for jury tampering.
Before you get all excited, there's virtually no possibility that Lamb will be selected to sit on his own jury. According to Greene County Circuit Clerk Shirley Thornton, the fact that Lamb's name was pulled is pure coincidence. She says the full list of possible jurors was sent from the administrative offices in Springfield to Greene County back in March, and Lamb's name happened to wind up among 150 chosen for this particular trial date.
"When I saw his name I knew this was not going to be good," Thornton says, recalling when she recognized Lamb's name on the list. His jury-tampering case has received heavy coverage in local news outlets. Lamb himself has a history of run-ins with law, like the time he filmed a cop drinking at bar not long after he'd pulled Lamb over for a traffic stop.
"I had a discussion with our judge, and he said, 'I have no authority to take anybody off the list,'" says Thornton, though she adds that she can "almost guarantee" the State's Attorney's Office will make sure Lamb isn't picked for his trial.
Lamb's position on the Greene County Board is also affecting the case. His administrative responsibilities over the courts caused the regular Greene County judge and prosecutor to recuse themselves, and a different county's judge and special prosecutor have been brought in.
Though it's fun to imagine all the shenanigans Lamb could get into by sitting on his own jury, there's little humorous about the felony charge brought against him, especially in the context of his campaign. Lamb's name will be on the ballot for the November election as a "constitutional Sheriff's candidate," but the campaign has essentially been shuttered.
"This entire case is absurd," says Lamb's attorney Patrick Watts. He's ordered his client not to go on the record about the jury-tampering allegations.
While no law technically bars Lamb from campaigning, as his lawyer, Watts says he can't allow Lamb speak publicly about his political beliefs, like alleged mismanagement of the Greene County Sheriff's Office or the principle of jury nullification.
Watt doesn't shy away from speculating that Greene County Sheriff McMillan is targeting Lamb for political retribution.
"The Sheriff is the one who led the investigation and wrote the reports," he says. "What has the Sheriff done? He's silenced his political opponent."
"I would rather vote for Big Bird in the upcoming November election than a sheriff willing to seek imprisonment of his political opponent for expressing his public political ideas," Watts adds. "Hopefully the citizens of Greene County take notice."