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See Obituary on Chicago Sun Times site.


April 18, 2001

Richard Samuels, Cook County judge
Staff Reporter

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Samuels, who presided over some of Chicago's most high profile criminal cases during a 33-year tenure--including the Gary Dotson rape trial--died of cancer Saturday at South Suburban Hospital. He was 74.

Judge Samuels was appointed a Cook County magistrate in 1968. He retired from the bench late last year on the advice of doctors treating him for bone cancer.

Judge Samuels was known for his quick wit and easygoing style.

"He was fair," said his wife, Noel Johnson. "He ran a formal courtroom, but not stiff. He had a great legal mind. Everyone in the courthouse would go to him and ask him when they needed help. He was a mentor to judges, state's attorneys, public defenders."

A Chicago native, Judge Samuels attended the University of Chicago and began practicing law in his father's firm in 1950.

In 1968 he became a traffic court judge. He moved in the mid-70s to the Daley Center to try civil cases. In 1976 he became a felony court judge in the 6th District in Markham.

"He just loved the law and the courthouse scene," said Judge John Wasilewski.

He loved it so much that shortly after Judge Samuels retired in the late 1980s, for the first time, he returned to the bench, where he stayed until December 2000.

"He handled many significant cases and was called upon to make many difficult decisions," Wasilewski said.

In 1985, a raspy-voiced Judge Samuels became the subject of national criticism when he ordered Dotson back to prison to finish serving a 20-to-50-year sentence for the 1979 rape of Cathy Crowell Webb. Webb recanted, but Judge Samuels rejected her later testimony.

"They didn't have DNA testing back then," Wasilewski said.

A family man, Judge Samuels was married 38 years to the late Mary B. Samuels, who died in 1995. He later married his friend, attorney Noel Johnson.

He was a World War II Navy veteran.

Besides his wife, Judge Samuels is survived by a daughter, Mary; two sons, John and Albert; three grandchildren, and an uncle, Arthur Samuels.

Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday at Tews Funeral Home, 18230 S. Dixie Highway in Homewood. Services start with prayers at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home and proceed at the 10 a.m. funeral at Infant Jesus of Prague Church on Flossmoor Road and Leavitt Avenue in Flossmoor. Burial will be at Ridgewood Cemetery in Des Plaines.

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