A Lake County judge ruled Friday that police did not violate the rights of the man accused of a 2006 murder while he was in custody in the hours after the slaying.
As a result, jurors in the still-unscheduled trial of James Ealy will be told Ealy told a Waukegan police officer "You and your partner know what I did … God almighty knows what I did."
Ealy 47, faces up to life in prison if convicted of the Nov. 27, 2006 strangulation murder of Mary Hutchison, Ealy's former supervisor at the now-shuttered Burger King in Lindenhurst.
Detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force questioned Ealy briefly on the night of the slaying, released him, then questioned him further before he was formally charged on Dec. 1, 2006.
In their efforts to keep Ealy's statements and other evidence gathered against him out of court, his attorneys claimed police questioned Ealy without informing him of his rights and searched his Lake Villa apartment without a warrant.
But Circuit Judge Fred Foreman said in a 48-page ruling issued Friday that Ealy made statements to police without being questioned, and when officers did seek to ask him questions about the crime they videotaped themselves reading Ealy his rights.
Foreman also found Ealy gave officers permission to search his apartment when he invited them in and told them they "could look around" during their initial encounter the night of the murder.
Police only found a small amount of marijuana in the apartment that night. That discovery served as the foundation for a court-ordered search warrant they used a couple of days later.
Police said cash in the exact amount reported stolen from the Burger King was found inside the apartment during the second search. And, Ealy's cellphone listed several calls to the Burger King on the morning of the murder.
In 1982, Ealy was convicted of the murders of four members of a Chicago family. That conviction was reversed four years later when the appellate court ruled he had been improperly questioned.
He also served an 11-year prison sentence for a 1995 conviction for rape in Cook County.
Foreman scheduled a hearing for April 9 for the filing of additional motions in the case and the possible setting a trial date.
Ealy is held without bail in the Lake County jail.