A woman serving a 30-year prison sentence for the attempted murder of a Lincolnshire couple is claiming prosecutors lied about the evidence against her in order to get her to admit her role in the crime.
An attorney for Sandra Rogers, 54, is asking that no judges from Lake County be allowed to decide if she will be allowed to withdraw her guilty plea because the former prosecutors she is accusing are now both on the bench.
Then-Assistant State's Attorneys George Strickland and Christopher Stride, who prosecuted the case against Rogers and are now associate judges in the 19th Judicial Circuit, are accused of lying about a note Rogers sent to her co-defendant while both were in the Lake County jail.
Rogers and Jonathan McMeekin, who is serving 20 years in prison, were charged with the May 19, 2003 attack on her ex-husband Richard Rogers, and Angela Gloria as they slept in their Lincolnshire home.
Sandra and Richard Rogers were in a bitter custody dispute over their 14-year-old daughter at the time.
Shortly before the attack, Richard Rogers learned his ex-wife was allowing the girl to have a sexual relationship with McMeekin and convinced a family court judge to award him custody of the girl.
McMeekin, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and had agreed to testify against Sandra Rogers, told police they both broke into the home and beat on the couple with a hand-held sledgehammer.
Both victims suffered life-threatening wounds but eventually recovered.
As Rogers approached her trial date, her attorney at the time told her the prosecutors said McMeekin, now 24, had signed a sworn statement saying a corrections officer had brought him a note from Rogers.
Defense attorney Alex Rafferty says he was told the note from his client said, "I'm sorry," and that the corrections officer who delivered it was prepared to testify to that.
In a motion brought by Waukegan attorney Ralph Strathmann, Rogers claims the note she sent to McMeekin actually read, "How are you and I love you."
Strathmann's motion claims the information passed on by Strickland and Stride had a severe impact on her defense.
The motion says that Rogers was prepared to go to trial and denounce McMeekin as a liar, but believed McMeekin's testimony and that of the corrections officer "would be too much to overcome," and would get her convicted.
Rogers never formally pleaded guilty in the case, but on Nov. 24, 2004 admitted that the evidence against her would likely lead to a finding of guilty and was convicted.
She later discussed the note with the corrections officer, Strathmann's motion says, and discovered that the officer claimed she did not tell Strickland and Stride the note said, "I'm sorry."
Rafferty also failed to bring Rogers back into court for an attempt to withdraw her admission, Strathmann's motion says.
Strickland and Stride both declined to comment on the motion, citing ethical prohibitions on public comment by judges on pending cases.
Judges in Lake County should be disqualified from hearing the motion, Strathmann claims, to avoid a conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety.
Circuit Judge John Phillips is scheduled to hear the disqualification argument at a hearing set for Sept. 3.
In past cases where Lake County judges have been disqualified from hearing cases, the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts has appointed judges from other counties to preside over the matters.