A legal process consisting of several steps led to the dismissal of murder charges against the man previously convicted of what had once been the nation’s oldest cold case. According to the law, the man could potentially face similar charges in the future, but prosecutors close to the case claim that further prosecution is highly unlikely.
Cold Case “Solved”
In December of 1957, a 7-year-old girl was abducted near her home in Sycamore, then a farming town in DeKalb County. Her body was found some five months later. The case remained open for more than five decades. In 2012, a man who had been questioned by the FBI in 1957 was suddenly back in the spotlight, despite apparent evidence that he had not been in Sycamore at the time of the abduction. Based on a photo lineup using a 50-year old image of the man, an eyewitness—who was with the victim the night of her disappearance—identified him as the person who approached them. The man was subsequently convicted in a bench trial and was sentenced to life in prison.
Vacated Conviction and Dismissal
Dekalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack began reviewing the conviction last year. He believed that his predecessor was wrong in the decision to prosecute, and that the case and evidence did not truly support the conviction. He filed a motion to vacate the conviction, which was controversially granted by Dekalb County Judge William Brady. In his decision, Judge Brady overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial for the previously-convicted man. The man was then released from prison on his own recognizance.
Schmack, however, was not done. Further investigation prompted him to file a second motion, this one asking for full dismissal of the murder charges. This week, Judge Brady agreed and dismissed the murder charges without prejudice. The family of the victim has expressed outrage at the judge’s ruling and has requested the appointment of a special prosecutor. A hearing on that request is scheduled for June.
The dismissal without prejudice means that the charges against the man are no longer outstanding, but could potentially be refiled without constituting double jeopardy. While the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a defendant cannot be tried twice on the same charges, the vacated conviction and dismissal of the charges effectively means that, in the eyes of the law, the charges never existed. A dismissal with prejudice means that the judge would have been ruling on the man’s innocence or guilt rather than the procedure, thereby barring future prosecution. Judge Brady refused to do so, saying that it was not his role in this instance. Thus, if supported by evidence, new charges for murder could be legally possible. State’s Attorney Schmack has expressed no intention of prosecuting the man again.
Faced With a Confusion Situation?
If you have been charged with a crime that you did not commit, an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your future and your rights. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba fully understands the law and the lengths to which some will go to secure a conviction, no matter how thin the evidence against you may be. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.