After Marni Yang was convicted of shooting and killing a Deerfield woman and her unborn baby on Oct. 4, 2007, prosecutors said they had plenty of circumstantial evidence in the case.
But it was recorded conversations in which Yang described the murder in detail to a friend that sealed her fate.
Lake County prosecutors painted Yang as being obsessed with former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle, hatching and carrying out a plan to kill a romantic rival, Rhoni Reuter, who was pregnant with Gayle's baby.
Wednesday, an attorney for Yang argued before an appellate court panel that her statements to a friend should not have been allowed at trial and that authorities coached the informant to coax Yang to give up information about the murder. Authorities said Yang rented a car, shot Reuter on her doorstep with a gun and homemade silencer that was later disposed of in a bucket of cement.
Defense attorney Allan Ackerman argued that an Oct. 4, 2007 phone call Yang made to her friend and psychic adviser, Christi Paschen, was not admissible in court because Yang had not given consent to be recorded. All calls to Paschen's job were recorded by her employer, so Yang used the phrase of asking Paschen to dinner as code that she had shot and killed Reuter.
"This was not just a nebulous, irrelevant communication. This was an anchor, if you will, for the prosecution's case," Ackerman said.
Ackerman also argued that other conversations recorded by Paschen when she and Yang met at a restaurant in early 2009 should be excluded from court as well.
On the tapes, played during Yang's three-week trial in March 2011, she describes how she stood outside Reuter's condo and shot the pregnant woman. Reuter was hit by six bullets, two of which also struck her unborn daughter. The last shot was fired into the back of Reuter's head.
"I took the first shot," Yang says on the tape. "I remember screaming because at that point I realize we are at the point of no return, and I just started emptying the clip."
Scott Jacobson, an assistant state's attorney with the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, argued Yang and Paschen knew they were being recorded in October 2007, and Yang used the dinner phrase to indicate she'd killed Reuter. Under Illinois eavesdropping laws, both parties in a conversation must give consent to be recorded.
"There is ample evidence of consent," Jacobson said.
He argued authorities had not coached Paschen in early 2009, and they did not err in ruling out Gayle or another woman Gayle was dating because she had an airtight alibi.
"(Yang's) motive in the case is clear cut. It was irrefutable," Jacobson said. "(The recordings) showed her state of mind. It showed the effort she was going to go through to eliminate the romantic competition."
Yang, 45, is serving a life sentence at Dwight Correctional Center and was not present for the hearing.
The three-judge appellate panel said it was taking the matter under advisement. It did not give a timetable to release its decision, but if it rules in Yang's favor, a new trial could be ordered.