Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer





Filtering by Category: Darrell Cannon

Chicago Media Takes The Fifth...

Wrongful conviction activists and lawyers and their media lap dogs often point out that many detectives take the fifth when facing accusations of abuse against a suspect in criminal investigations. 

This taking of the fifth is, they claim, a suspicious sign of the cops’ guilt. Why else wouldn’t they testify? 

The answer to that question is fairly simple. Cops have watched law firms like the People’s Law Office, headed by G. Flint Taylor, chip away at the criminal justice system for four decades, so much so that no cop can be sure he will get a fair deal in the justice system. So a lot of cops follow the advice of their attorneys and remain silent. 

Not all do. Taylor and his ilk never mention some key cases, like the Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley, in which the detectives fought to go to civil trial in the hopes of proving to the public once again that a vicious killer set free from prison was truly guilty. In the Porter case, the detectives won. In the Hobley case, the city settled before going to trial, infuriating the detectives. It was a devastating blow to the reputation of the police department that lingers to this day.  

But it’s not just the cops who are electing to remain silent. Now it’s the Chicago media machine, and, in many ways, their silence says a lot more than the cops’.

Let’s go back to the winter of 1970. 

A married couple owned a toy shop called Wee Folks on the 1700 block of East 79th Street. A man named Darrell Cannon entered the store. Outside, a friend of his was waiting in a car. The woman answered a few questions by Cannon, who said he was looking for a toy for his nephew. But when he asked to look around some more, the woman became suspicious and pushed the holdup alarm. The husband, Emanuel Lazar, came out and approached Cannon. Cannon raised his pistol and fired five rounds, then ran out of the store into a Cadillac being driven by Cannon’s accomplice. 

Cannon was caught five days later. It was a solid case, with numerous witnesses and corroborating evidence. Cannon was convicted and sentenced to between 100 to 200 years in prison. 

Cannon appealed the conviction for a host of reasons, one of them being his claim that his sentence was excessive. He lost the appeal. Here is what the court ruled about his lengthy sentence. 

Finally, defendant contends that his sentence is excessive. We note that he was convicted of ruthlessly shooting down the elderly owner of a toy shop. The record reveals that at the hearing in aggravation and mitigation defendant, when given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf, manifested absolutely no remorse for his actions. The trial court, which of course had the opportunity to study the conduct and demeanor of defendant throughout the trial and sentencing hearing, carefully weighed his potential for rehabilitation against such factors as the nature of the crime and his character and history. In light of this record we believe that the imposition of a sentence of from 100 to 200 years was neither violative of statute nor an abuse of the trial court's discretion, and consequently we hold that it should remain undisturbed.

Well, Cannon never did much of the 100 years. In fact, he only served about ten percent of it. After eleven years, he was paroled. And, well, you know the rest of the story. In 1983 he was arrested for the murder of a drug dealer. Only this time, he was convicted in an era when offenders were claiming they were tortured into confessing by corrupt Chicago cops, in particular former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men. 

The claims were taken up by Taylor and his law firm.

Under these claims that he was tortured, Cannon’s lawyers got the courts to toss his conviction, and prosecutors declined to try him again. He went free, the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar at the toy store all but forgotten in the magical transformation of a killer into a folk hero. 

He didn’t just get his freedom. Darrell Cannon became Flint Taylor’s poster child in Taylor’s crusade to get so-called torture victims reparations from the city, a crusade Taylor won recently when the city approved a total of $5.5 million to be paid out to fifty-seven convicted felons, often killers, claiming Burge and his men abused them.

Cannon reportedly received a part of that reparations settlement.

Taylor’s strong-arming of the city council for the reparations agreement came even amid a mounting body of evidence that there is as much corruption in the wrongful conviction movement as there ever was in any police district. But it is a mark of the political power Taylor has garnered in the city that he prevailed despite this evidence.  

Weather Underground, allies of the People's Law Office

In an exclusive interview with Crooked City, Jon Burge assailed the torture reparations to Cannon, claiming that Cannon had committed three murders, including the murder of Lazar, and that he was a high-ranking member of the El Rukns, one of the most vicious gangs ever formed in an American city.  

The chief spokesmen for G. Flint Taylor's reparations campaign are Darryl Cannon and Anthony Holmes. Cannon is a former El Rukn General who has been convicted of three separate murders in his long career, pleading guilty to the last one after cutting a deal for "time served." His first murder conviction was as a juvenile, so the police can't mention it, but I can. He still stands convicted of all three murders.

What does any of this this have to do with taking the fifth? Well, now another group is exercising their right to remain silent, the Chicago media, this time over the brutal murder of a 76-year-old man on the far south side. 

The man’s name was Claude Cannon.  According to news reports, he was shot numerous times in his home, gunned down, just like Emanuel Lazar was more than five decades ago. 

According to news reports, Claude Cannon has a brother and roommate, none other than Darrell Cannon. Darrell told the media he did not discover the body in his own house until the day after the murder. 

Cannon also made another interesting statement to the media. 

"To come in and see your brother laying there with a hole in his head in the fetal position as if he was praying... I never seen anything like that before in my life," Cannon said.

Cannon has never seen anything like that before in his life? What about the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar in 1970? 

Such a story in any other city would initiate an intense media investigation. A man with murder convictions already under his belt getting a settlement from the city, and then his brother murdered just a few months later, well, that would be an irony, a twist of fate no decent journalist could resist looking into.  

But Chicago is not a city with a free press. Rather, the media is controlled by a collection of ideologically sympathetic editors, reporters, and columnists who dictate what the public will hear and what they won’t. 

The absolute silence by the media in the wake of the murder of Claude Cannon is a sign of this media machine. Guided by papers like the Tribune and journalists like Steve Mills, Eric Zorn, John Conroy, Carol Marin, and Mick Dumke, among others, they have carefully constructed a narrative about the police and criminals. Darrell Cannon is a central component of that narrative. 

Anything that could tarnish this narrative is strictly out of bounds.


What a contrast. Just a few months ago, when Cannon won his reparations, his story and his image were splashed across every newspaper. He was being interviewed everywhere. 

It is this silence by the media throughout the entire city that proves Chicago has no freedom of the press, that the imaginative life of the city follows tyrannical party lines more akin to a place like Cuba than a legitimate democracy. 

Else they would all be asking some fervent questions about the vicious execution of an old man on the far south side of the most Crooked City.

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns.