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updated: 6/30/2012 5:33 PM

Attorney seeks Supreme Court review in DUI crash that killed 5

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  • Sandra Vasquez

    Sandra Vasquez


The attorney for an Aurora woman in jail for killing five Oswego teens in a February 2007 crash requested permission on Friday to appeal her client's sentence to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Defense attorney Kathleen Colton said Saturday she filed a petition asking the state's highest court to reverse an appellate court's June ruling upholding Sandra Vasquez's 15-year jail sentence.

"This is something that I had to do for her," Colton said about the petition to appeal.

Vasquez was sentenced to 15 years in August 2010 after being convicted of aggravated DUI and reckless homicide for the crash that killed Oswego High School students Matthew Frank, 17; Katherine "Katie" Merkel, 14; James McGee, 14; Jessica Nutoni, 15; and Tiffany Urso, 16.

Colton's petition to the Supreme Court is seeking review of a state statute that allows probation in some DUI death cases -- if the defendant can prove "extraordinary circumstances" were involved. She had argued before an appellate court that "extraordinary circumstances" are so vaguely defined that the statute is unconstitutional, but the court rejected the argument.

"My position as a lawyer is that needs to be defined in some manner," Colton said about the meaning of "extraordinary circumstances." "You can't just throw it out there and say 'You know it when you see it.'"

After filing the petition with Vasquez's permission, Colton said she will wait to see if the state Supreme Court gives her permission to appeal. She said only about one in 10 petitioners is allowed to appeal, and only two of every 100 appeals is granted any relief.

Still, she said seeking to gain a definition of the "extraordinary circumstances" statute and continuing to defend the rights of an important client are reason enough to attempt an appeal.

"It's the only chance (Vasquez) has at this point," Colton said. "It's the longest of long shots, but it may be a possibility."

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