Appeals court again denies new trial for killer of McHenry County sheriff's deputy

It was different argument, same result this week for Scott Peters, the Holiday Hills man serving a 135-year prison term for shooting a pair of McHenry County sheriff's deputies, one fatally, in 2014.

A unanimous Second District Appellate Court of Illinois on Tuesday upheld a lower court's denial of Peters' request for a new trial, rejecting his claims that his conviction was the result of fraud, misrepresentation and suppression of evidence.

The decision comes almost exactly two years after the Second District denied Peters' initial appeal, which centered around arguments that McHenry County prosecutors prejudiced jurors by calling Peters a "lying liar" during closing arguments of his 2015 trial.

That trial ended with Peters, 57, convicted on seven counts of attempted murder in the shootings of sheriff's deputies Dwight Maness and Khalia Satkiewicz on Oct. 16, 2014. Authorities say Peters opened fire on the deputies with an AR-15 rifle after they responded to a domestic disturbance at his home, striking Maness in the back and Satkiewicz in the leg.

Dwight Maness

Both survived initially, but Maness, 47, succumbed to complications from his injuries 11 months later. By then, Peters already had been convicted and given a virtual life sentence, so prosecutors chose not to charge him with murder.

His latest bid for a new trial centers around numerous allegations of wrongdoing by prosecutors and investigators, including that they suppressed video surveillance and concealed facts. But the appellate court ruled Peters offered nothing to support his claims.

"The bottom line, however, is that, while the defendant has provided speculation, he has not provided any evidence," Judge Mary Seminara-Schostok wrote.

The ruling was welcome news to McHenry County Sheriff Bill Primm.

"Mr. Peters should be kept where he belongs for a very long time," Primm told us.

For the record, "a very long time" in this case is until March 25, 2130 - the earliest possible date of parole for Peters.

Orane Foster

The little things count

The seemingly smallest of errors can have a huge impact on the outcome of a case.

That's what happened this week when an Aurora man serving a 27-year sentence on child sex abuse charges was awarded a new trial, all because a judge forgot to ask a juror some key questions before his first trial.

The beneficiary of that error is Orane Foster, who was found guilty in May 2017 of predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from allegations he repeatedly abused an 8-year-old girl in 2015.

The mistake that won him a second chance occurred before his first trial even began, when attorneys and presiding Judge James C. Hallock were quizzing potential jurors. As part of that questioning, state law requires each juror be asked if he or she understands what are known as Zehr principles - basic tenets of criminal law like the presumption of innocence, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant's right not to testify.

According to an appellate court decision Tuesday ordering a new trial, at least one of Foster's jurors wasn't asked those questions.

"The record is clear that the court did not recite the Zehr principles to them, nor did it ask whether they understood and accepted the Zehr principles. This was clear error," appellate Judge Kathryn E. Zenoff wrote in the unanimous ruling.

What's next for Foster? Likely a return to the Kane County jail, where he'll await prosecutors' decision on a retrial. Prosecutors said Thursday they're reviewing their options.

Ralston P., left, the first graduate of the Kane County Veterans Treatment Court, receives a pin during commencement ceremonies from Nathaniel Johnson, a veterans service officer with the county's Veterans Assistance Commission. Courtesy of the 16th Judicial Circuit

Small, class big accomplishment

The graduating class wasn't the largest we've seen - just one student, in fact - but the commencement ceremony this week at the Kane County courthouse in St. Charles was a big deal.

The Kane County Veterans Treatment Court held its inaugural graduation Monday, recognizing a veteran who completed its rigorous program to free himself from the criminal justice system.

Formed in January 2018, the court offers an intensive program of substance abuse and mental health treatment and accountability for combat veterans facing nonviolent criminal charges. Veterans admitted to the court plead guilty and receive probation. Then, if they meet all of the program's requirements while on probation, they can graduate and have their records cleared.

The ceremony Monday for a graduate identified only as Ralston P. included a color guard and him receiving a Quilt of Valor for completing the program.

Such courts were mandated by state law in 2018 as a way to assist veterans caught up in the criminal justice system due to substance use, mental health disorders or trauma.

According to the Kane County court officials, research shows that Veterans Treatment Courts work better than jail or prison, and better than treatment alone.

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