Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hearings on possible new trial for Melissa Calusinski to start in August

Hearings on possible new trial for Melissa Calusinski to start in August
Melissa Calusinski will be transferred from prison back to the Lake County Jail next month for a hearing on a potential new murder trial in the 2009 death of a child at a Lincolnshire day care center.
On Tuesday, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes scheduled evidentiary hearings for Aug. 18, Aug. 19 and Sept. 16. The September date was set for a witness with a medical condition who will be unable to attend the August hearings.
The hearings are expected to focus on what Calusinski's lawyers assert is new medical evidence that should result in a new trial. Shanes has the option to rule on the request for a new trial after Sept. 16 attorney arguments or set a separate date for the ruling.
"I'm excited as all hell," Calusinski's father, Paul Calusinski, said.
He added he is excited that his daughter will be back in Lake County and is optimistic a new trial will be granted. Melissa Calusinski, 29, has been held at the Logan Correctional Center in downstate Lincoln since March 1, 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
In November 2011, a jury convicted Melissa Calusinski — a Barrington High School graduate and former day care worker — of murder in the death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan. The toddler died after an ambulance rushed him from the Minee Subee day care facility in Lincolnshire to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville Jan. 14, 2009, officials said.
In an interview with police after Benjamin's death, Melissa Calusinski initially denied that she hurt the boy, but later confessed to throwing him on the floor and demonstrated what happened, officials said. The day care center had no surveillance cameras, and Melissa Calusinski was the only employee in the room when Benjamin lost consciousness, according to authorities.
In August 2013, Eupil Choi, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, said in a sworn affidavit the boy "had suffered an old injury that predated January 14, 2009." Choi said he had "missed" the injury, according to the affidavit.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim has said Choi told him the finding has not changed his conclusion that the toddler died of a traumatic injury the day of his death. On Tuesday, Nerheim reaffirmed Choi said his opinion still is that the child died of a "catastrophic injury that day."
The defense also has highlighted a sworn statement from Dr. Nancy Jones, a forensic pathologist and the former chief medical examiner for Cook County, who said she reviewed the case and concluded the evidence indicated the boy died of pre-existing injuries and Melissa Calusinski's confession doesn't fit with her medical findings.
On June 10, 2015, a set of X-rays that allegedly were never turned over to defense attorneys before or during the trial were discovered at the Lake County Coroner's Office. Defense attorneys said they include a skull X-ray that revealed Benjamin's head was not shaped normally and had a preexisting condition or previous injury.
In July of 2015, Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd, citing the new medical evidence, changed Benjamin's cause of death of from homicide to "undetermined."
Choi and Jones are both expected to testify at the evidentiary hearings.
Shanes has said "the burden of persuasion" is on the defense and, per the Illinois Supreme Court, any new evidence must be found to "be of such character that it would likely change the outcome of the trial" for the request for a new trial to be successful.
Melissa Calusinski is serving a 31-year prison term.
On Tuesday, Paul Calusinski and local activists Clyde McLemore and Ralph Peterson Jr. announced a march will be at the Lake County Building Thursday to draw attention to the case, Black Lives Matter and past wrongful convictions in Lake County.
Twitter @jimnewton5

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