Green awaits June 19 court date

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Green awaits June 19 court date

It has been almost 17 years since her son was sent to prison for a crime that the key witness in the case has since testified he didn't commit. But Helen Boatner remains cheerful and optimistic as she awaits the latest court date that could trigger his release.

Yarmo Green was an outstanding football player at Mather High School. A running back, he had the size, speed, talent and potential to earn a scholarship to a major college. He was an All-Chicago Public League selection as a junior in 1994. He led his team to an 11-3 record and second place in the city playoff. He dreamed of playing at Notre Dame and the NFL.

In 1995, he was convicted of attempted first-degree murder of one person and aggravated battery of another. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

On June 19, a judge will rule on Green's latest appeal based on recent testimony by a key witness in the case, a married woman with five children who currently is in jail for retail theft, who recanted her original testimony and now insists that Green wasn't present when the beatings took place and that a Chicago policeman had paid her 2,200 to lie about the matter.

The judge could order Green's immediate release. His scheduled release day is 2014. This is his 10th appeal. He currently is imprisoned in Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois, after serving previously in Pontiac, Danville and Pinckneyville. He still signs his letters as No. 42, his football uniform number. But he answers to B71883.

"He is doing fine. We hope and pray that his last court day is June 19," his mother said. "They put (the key witness) on the stand a few weeks ago and she told everything. She was reluctant. But she said a policeman had paid her to tell lies about Yarmo. I have a feeling that the judge will let him go."

Green, now 35, calls his mother every week. He earned his General Equivalency Degree (GED), was taking a culinary arts class to learn to become a cook and was involved in a ceramics class. However, because of budget cutbacks over the last five years, he hasn't been able to sign up for any more classes. At Logan, he does participate in basketball tournaments.

"I don't know what he wants to do when he comes back," his mother said. "I told him I would like for him to get involved with neighborhood kids and teach them football. Kids in the city don't have anywhere to go. They have no money. Yarmo could be a mentor to them."

Mrs. Boatner remains busy. She will be 65 in August. For seven hours every day, she babysits for two one-year-old boys. One is a neighbor's grandson. The other is her granddaughter's cousin. "They were born 12 days apart. They are in their terrible ones," she said.

While she no longer can make the long trips Downstate to visit her son, she attends every one of his court dates in Chicago. She is so appreciative and grateful for the work of attorney Liz Wang, who has spearheaded a group called the Exoneration Project that is working on Green's release.

"It is such shame, a waste," said Ed Miller, Green's coach at Mather. "I believe he is a good kid. We did everything we could to help him. But you can't be with a kid for 24 hours a day. He just couldn't get away from the gangs."

Green wasn't an angel. He was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang. Police perceived him as a neighborhood bully. He admits he once hit a kid who was spray-painting a wall.

But he always has insisted that he didn't hit the victim, whom he claimed was laying on the ground after being attacked by others. Forty-eight hours later, after the key witness told police that Green was the attacker, he was arrested at his home.

The key witness originally recanted in a signed affidavit on May 14, 2008, but the appeal was turned down. She said she did what the police told her to do because she was a runaway from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a ward of the state. She said she didn't want to be locked up and lose her children.

In her recent testimony, she said she could no longer live with her original accusation that sent Green to jail. "I basically wanted everyone to know it was a lie, that he didn't do it," she said.

Now, in the wake of her recantation in court, Yarmo Green hopes to become a free man on June 19. His mother is counting the hours.

Jon Lester fans 10, tosses complete game as Cubs beat Giants

Jon Lester fans 10, tosses complete game as Cubs beat Giants

As much as the Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner in an elimination game last October – and feeling all that anxiety rippling through the crowd at Wrigley Field – the San Francisco Giants still would have had to beat Jon Lester that night.

The Giants know how good Lester is, sending manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey as part of the group recruiting visit to his Georgia home shortly after winning the 2014 World Series. There were even rumblings of a $168 million proposal from the Giants at the winter meetings where Lester took a six-year, $155 million megadeal and the chance to make history in Chicago.  

That Lester vs. Cueto matchup in Game 5 never happened, because the Cubs pulled off a Giant comeback in the divisional round. Lester went on to become the National League Championship Series co-MVP and win his third World Series ring. 

Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) looked to be in October form during Tuesday night’s 4-1 complete-game win over the Giants, while Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo each homered off Cueto (4-4, 4.64 ERA).  

Are Cubs in the middle of a Giant World Series hangover or about to turn the 2017 season around?

Are Cubs in the middle of a Giant World Series hangover or about to turn the 2017 season around?

Joe Maddon is talking up moral victories in late May – the defending champs keep playing hard – while getting questions about how the 2017 team still needs to create its own identity. 

This is the symbiotic relationship between the Cubs manager and the Chicago media. There is a fine line between giving context and making excuses, overreacting to a small sample size and ignoring the breakdowns in every phase of the game so far.

The Cubs shouldn’t be covered like an NFL team, where every game leads to sweeping conclusions. But at some point this year, the old Bill Parcells line will come true: “You are what your record says you are.”

In many ways, the San Francisco Giants are the model for business/baseball synergy, but even they couldn’t make the playoffs the year after winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, each time finishing at least eight games out of first place and dealing with the kind of hangover the Cubs are experiencing now, making this four-game series at Wrigley Field a reality check.

“Our guys have a great mindset,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “They’re a little frustrated, as anyone would be with how we’re playing, but they have a lot of heart and they really care. I think they know how good they can be and they want to attain that level. There’s no lack of urgency. There’s no complacency because we won last year. 

“There’s also confidence in what we can and will do when guys hit their stride. There’s no panic, but there’s also a lot of guys in there who care about playing up to our capabilities. That’s one of the reasons I have so much trust in this group and a lot of confidence that we’re going to get it straightened out.

“You don’t know when it’s going to happen. You never quite know where the bottom is. You never quite know what catalytic event is going to turn things around.”

Maybe Tuesday night’s 4-1 win will be a springboard, the way the Cubs swept a four-game series against the Giants in August 2015 and kept rolling into the National League Championship Series.

Jon Lester handcuffed the Giants after a 65-minute rain delay, carrying a rotation that began the day with a 4.45 ERA that ranked 17th in the majors. Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo each homered off Johnny Cueto, showing signs of life for an offense that began the day with a .746 OPS that ranked 14th in the majors and a .229 batting average with runners in scoring position.
 
Everything’s relative in an NL Central where the Cubs (23-21) have the most talent, the most money and the clearest direction at the trade deadline. There will be no buy-or-sell debates within Epstein’s front office or too much worrying about the future.  

“You look at our division right now and you can talk about anybody’s record,” Heyward said. “Whoever’s in first right now, they’re not doing much better than we are. Whoever’s in last, they’re not doing much worse than we are. That’s just kind of how the division’s going right now. 

“We understand that it’s going to be whoever steps up and finishes the season strong (will) come out on top. You kind of get the drift that the wild-card team’s not going to come from this division at this point. There’s a lot of baseball left, obviously, and you can’t pencil anybody in or cancel anybody out. 

“We just got to go out here and keep trying to put it together. Keep being in every ballgame, keep making adjustments and see what it brings.” 

These last two nights at Clark and Addison, the Cubs have also flashed the athleticism, skills and instincts that transformed them into a historic defensive unit last season, which makes the 37 errors and 28 unearned runs through 44 games so puzzling.

“Last year, our starting pitching was excellent,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Our offense, it had its ups and downs, but largely it was very good and it will be very good this year. But the defense hasn’t been as solid. And last year, it was borderline spectacular. 

“Not only was it clean, but it was also that we made big plays at big times. It just felt like something that happened a lot. This year, we’ve made a lot of mistakes and we haven’t really made those big defensive plays. I don’t have an explanation for that.

“You think of defense as sort of a constant. (But) clearly as a team it’s been like anything else – you go up and down. That was the backbone of our team last year and we need to get back to that point.”

Before getting carried away with a win over Cueto and the Giants, remember this is also a team that has allowed 46 runs in the first inning and needed 12 come-from-behind wins to stay two games above .500. The longest winning streak so far is four games and that happened a month ago. 

“I don’t think that our deficits are because guys don’t show up to play,” Hoyer said. “You give up a two-run homer in the first and now you’re scrambling from behind. The one thing about baseball is I feel like when you’re not hitting, when you’re making some errors, the first thing people point to is: ‘Oh, they look dead. They look tired.’”

The Cubs have been at the .500 mark at eight different points this season – without suffering a major injury and while getting contributions from Triple-A Iowa (Ian Happ, Eddie Butler) and nailing their biggest offseason move (Wade Davis). 

There are reasons why Major League Baseball hasn’t seen a team win back-to-back championships since the New York Yankees became a three-peat dynasty – 1998, 1999, 2000 – on top of their 1996 World Series title.

“I can’t imagine this group – given what they went through last year, given how much they care about each other – (would be) taking anything for granted,” Hoyer said. “I just don’t think we’ve played our best baseball yet. And I think we will.”