First, he killed one wife, then he was named a suspect in the disappearance of another, and now Drew Peterson's very existence has mucked up Christopher Vaughn's murder trial, the Oswego man's lawyer said Monday.
Vaughn's lawyer, George Lenard, said the specter of Drew Peterson hanging over the Vaughn case is just one of the reasons his convicted quadruple-killer client needs a new trial.
Besides the problem with Peterson, whose own murder trial was taking place in the courtroom next-door to Vaughn's in August and September, Lenard claimed Vaughn's case was corrupted when prosecutors succeeded in "indoctrinating" one of the jurors. Lenard also said a prosecutor insulted him during the closing arguments and he accused the jury of "improper deliberations."
The jury took only 50 minutes to find Vaughn guilty of murdering his wife, Kimberly, 34, and three children—Blake, 8, Cassandra, 11, and Abigayle, 12. Lenard said this quick verdict following the five-and-a-half week trial was improper, especially since the jury asked no questions after retiring.
"It's very rare and it's never happened to me where the jury doesn't want to see one piece of evidence, and that's what happened here," Lenard said. "That tells me that there was something that went terribly wrong in the trial."
Vaughn was supposed to be sentenced to life in prison Monday. Lenard's lengthy argument for a new trial put that off until Tuesday—unless Judge Daniel Rozak decides Vaughn will get a new trial after all. Rozak said he will announce his ruling at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Vaughn murders rocked the Chicago region when the news first broke in June 2007. But when Vaughn's trial finally started five years later, it was completely overshadowed by the Peterson case.
Lenard pointed out that both men were charged with murdering their wives and that the two cases were linked in news reports. He also said the media circus surrounding the case, which seemed to have been encouraged by some of Peterson's lawyers, turned off jurors selected for the Vaughn trial.
Lenard went on to criticize Peterson's lawyers for their buffoonish behavior following jury selection and recalled how, during a press conference, they mocked the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
"That gave criminal defense lawyers, all of us, a black eye," Lenard said.
Lenard also complained about Assistant State's Attorney Chris Regis' closing argument, saying the prosecutor "attacked my credibility."
Lenard said Regis essentially called him a liar and labeled him and his arguments "ridiculous," "offensive," "ludicrous," "unthinkable," "silly," "unfounded," "shameful," "embarrassing," "and last but not least, dumb."
"When you get up there and say a defense attorney or a prosecutor is basically lying to the jury, that's improper," Lenard said. "That's what Mr. Regis says right out of the box."