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updated: 1/3/2012 3:54 PM

Attorneys in Carpentersville case bolster motion for new trial

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  • Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville

      Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville

 
 

Attorneys for the Carpentersville woman convicted of murdering a toddler at a day care center added arguments Monday to their previously filed motion for a new trial.

Defense attorneys Daniel Cummings and Paul DeLuca last month asked Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes to order a new trial, citing what they called 34 errors in the trial and pretrial hearings for Melissa Calusinski.

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On Monday, they supplemented that request by claiming they were not fully informed about the testimony of a medical expert called by prosecutors.

They also cited the recent appellate court ruling in the Juan Rivera murder case as evidence that Calusinski's defense team should have been allowed to call an expert in false confessions to testify at her trial.

Calusinski, 25, was found guilty in November of first-degree murder in the Jan. 14, 2009 death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield.

She faces up to life in prison for throwing Benjamin to the floor as she worked as a teacher's aide at the former Minee Subee in the Park center in Lincolnshire.

Cummings and DeLuca claim in their motion prosecutors did not tell them Dr. Manuel Montez had examined Benjamin's body a few days after his death, but instead claimed Montez's knowledge of the case was based on his review of records.

Montez, one of five physicians who testified on both sides of the case regarding the injuries that caused Benjamin's death, supported the prosecution's theory that the boy died from head injuries inflicted when Calusinski threw him to the floor.

The defense team also cites the Rivera ruling, in which the appellate court said no reasonable trier of fact could find him guilty of the 1992 murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker despite three juries voting to convict him.

The defense attorneys claim in their motion that because DNA taken from Holly's body did not match Rivera, the appellate court had ruled Rivera's two confessions to police were false.

In Calusinski's case, the defense attorneys claim, there are six facts about what happened to Benjamin that do not correlate with what Calusinski said in her confessions so those confessions must be false as well.

Prosecutors Christen Bishop, Matthew DeMartini and Stephen Scheller all declined to comment on the specifics of the defense motion, but said they will argue against it in court.

Shanes scheduled a hearing of the motion and a sentencing hearing for Feb. 23.

Calusinski is held without bail in the Lake County jail.

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