CHICAGO — Two of Illinois’ biggest criminal cases converged in court Monday when attorneys for convicted quadruple-murderer Christopher Vaughn argued that he is entitled to a new trial because of fallout from Drew Peterson’s highly publicized prosecution.
The trials overlapped this summer in adjoining courtrooms on the fourth floor of the Joliet courthouse, where both Vaughn and former Bolingbrook police sergeant Peterson were convicted a few weeks apart of first-degree murder.
On Monday, Vaughn was scheduled to be sentenced for the 2007 slayings of his wife and three children, ages 12, 11 and 8, who were shot in the Oswego family’s SUV on what Vaughn had said was a trip to a Springfield water park.
But Judge Daniel Rozak halted Vaughn’s sentencing so he could review transcripts and television broadcast reports before ruling on the motion for a new trial, which he said he would do Tuesday morning. The courtroom was packed with Vaughn’s family, his wife’s family, reporters and at least three jurors from the trial.
Vaughn’s public defender George Lenard, who cited 51 grounds for a new trial, began his more than two-hour oral argument by taking some shots at former Peterson co-counsel Joel Brodsky.
Lenard criticized a news conference held by Peterson’s new defense team that he said seemed to mock the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy. Prosecutors believe Peterson killed Stacy but he has not been charged. He was tried and convicted this summer for the 2004 drowning of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
“That gave criminal defense attorneys — all of us — a black eye,” Lenard told the judge, saying jurors may have been so disgusted by this “show” that they were unfairly prejudiced against Vaughn’s defense team.
“I think they need to apologize about what they said out there,” Lenard later told reporters outside the courthouse.