O’Laughlin trial date likely to be pushed back

The judge in the Kelli O’Laughlin murder case agreed Thursday to let the defense hire its own investigator and DNA expert, over the objections of the state prosecutors.

The extra steps likely will push the start of the trial back from the scheduled May 19 date.

John Paul Carroll is representing pro bono John Wilson, Jr., the Chicago man charged with the murder of 14-year-old O’Laughlin in her Indian Head Park home in October 2011.

Carroll said he wants to hire a former Chicago police detective to re-question witnesses listed for the case, to determine, “are they going to be good witnesses? Are they going to stand by their testimony?”

Prosecutors argued while an indigent defendant is entitled to call expert witnesses with special expertise or knowledge to prove a critical issue, that does not include bringing in someone to do general investigative work.

But Associate Cook County Judge John J. Hynes approved the defense request, saying he thinks it’s appropriate.

Carroll also asked to hire a DNA expert from California to “take a good look at the documentation created by the scientists.” The state has presented the defense with DNA evidence and documentation, “that I can’t even understand,” Carroll said. An outside expert can tell him whether “it’s good DNA,” or whether there are mistakes in the analysis.

Hynes said it’s crucial the defense have the opportunity to review the DNA reports.

“I think DNA in today’s day and age is the most potent evidence, even more so than witness testimony,” Hynes said.

Prosecutors said DNA samples taken from a winter hat found in the O’Laughlins’ house matches Wilson’s. Investigators said the hat was wrapped around a rock that was used to break a window at the rear of the house, where the intruder entered.

Hynes told Carroll he wants him to report, by April 7, the individuals he wants to hire, their hourly rate, a budget and timeline for them to complete their work.

Assistant State’s Attorney Guy Lisuzzo said the May date they had reserved to begin Wilson’ trial no longer is tenable because prosecutors will need time to review the findings the defense’s investigator and DNA expert bring forward. Lisuzzo said they are allowed 45 days from the day the reports are tendered to the state.

Hynes approved the prosecution’s motion to allow cellphone records in the trial.

Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said Wilson had a cellphone with him when he was arrested. That cellphone had been used to call three real estate agents, with listings in Countryside and Western Springs, the day of the murder. Turano said the calls were made by Wilson and show he was “casing” unoccupied homes he could burglarize.

Carroll argued calling real estate agents is not a crime and there is no way to prove it was Wilson who made the calls.

The judge ruled the cellphone records are relevant because they could place the defendant in the vicinity on the day and time of the murder.

Hynes did not grant the defense’s motion to visit the crime scene. The prosecutors argued they had given the defense 600 photographs from the crime scene inside the O’Laughlin’s home, and 18 pages of reports from investigators who were there after the crime.

The crime took place more than 2.5 years ago, and the carpet, tile and a window in the home all had been replaced, Lisuzzo said.

Carroll said pictures don’t give an overall impression of the crime scene and cannot convey what five or 10 minutes in the home would.

But Hynes said the prosecution’s case did not rely on eyewitness testimony or a confession from the defendant that the defense would be trying to disprove based on the layout of the house.

“The home is substantially changed and the victims do not want this type of intrusion,” Hynes said.

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