Additional sentencing unconstitutional, defense says

  • Rhoni Reuter

    Rhoni Reuter

  • Marni Yang

    Marni Yang

Updated 12/7/2010 5:44 PM

Attorneys for a Chicago woman accused of killing a Deerfield mother-to-be and her unborn child told a Lake County judge Tuesday their client faces an unconstitutional penalty.

Marni Yang, 43, could be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child.


Yang is accused in the 2007 shooting deaths of Rhoni Reuter and Reuter's unborn daughter because she was jealous of Reuter's relationship with former Chicago Bear safety Shaun Gayle.

The standard penalty for first degree murder is 20 to 60 years, but Yang faces more time behind bars because of a state law requiring at least 25 additional years for anyone who kills with a gun.

Yang's attorney William Hedrick said Wednesday the additional penalty is unconstitutional because it applies only to crimes committed with guns and no other weapons. Hedrick said the legislature's intention in passing the law was to protect innocent bystanders from injury or death from someone using a firearm.

"But bombs and other explosive devices clearly put innocent bystanders at more risk than any gun," Hedrick said. "For the law to be fair, it would have to include bombs and other explosive devices as well."

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Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Fix said challenges to the "25-to-life" statute were rejected by two state appellate courts in 2004, and those rulings were upheld by the state Supreme Court the following year.

"The statute has been reviewed and upheld," Fix said. "This issue has already been litigated."

Associate Judge Christopher Stride said he would review the case law on the issue and rule on the motion Dec. 17.

Also on Tuesday, defense attorneys told Stride they were unlikely to be ready to go to trial on the scheduled date of Jan. 10.

The lawyers said they were still reviewing evidence provided by prosecutors and may want to file additional pretrial motions.

Stride said he would only grant a continuance in the case after being presented with a formal motion, but advised the parties to consider Feb. 22 or March 7 as potential trial dates.

Yang is held without bond in the Lake County jail.