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posted: 5/4/2010 12:01 AM

Trial to begin in fatal crash cops blame on nail painting

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  • Lora Hunt

    Lora Hunt


Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday in the case against a woman officials say was painting her nails when the car she was driving struck and killed a motorcyclist stopped at a traffic signal.

Laura Hunt, 49, is charged with reckless homicide in the May 2, 2009, crash on Route 12 that killed Anita Zaffke, 56, of Lake Zurich.

Police said Hunt, of Morris, was painting her fingernails when her car ran into Zaffke at Route 12 and Old McHenry Roads near Lake Zurich.

Attorneys on both sides of the case clashed Monday over language to be used when Lake County Circuit Judge Fred Foreman questioned prospective jurors.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Tomczak asked Forman to inquire if the jurors knew "that distracted driving is not against the law in Illinois."

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Mermel objected to the question, saying that he believed it would predispose jurors to view the defense case more favorably.

"It is the state's position that 'distraction' has nothing to do with the matter at hand," Mermel said. "We intend to establish that the defendant made several intentional, willful, conscious decisions to disregard the safety of others."

Tomczak countered that a police officer who investigated the incident said in his report that the primary cause of the crash was distracted driving.

"The word is used in police reports," Tomczak said. "I just do not want the jurors to think 'distracted' and 'reckless' mean the same thing."

Under state law, reckless actions are those undertaken willfully with the knowledge that they present a danger to others.

A person can be distracted in many different ways while driving a car in this state and still not be guilty of a crime.

Foreman said he would ask the jurors if they were aware of the term "distracted driving" but would not inquire if they believed it was illegal.

If convicted of reckless homicide, Hunt could face a prison sentence of up to five years, but also would be eligible for probation.

Jury selection was still underway late Monday afternoon, as the judge and the attorneys were seeking to seat a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates.

The trial is expected to last all week.