Second day without a verdict in mother's murder trial

  • Jessica Cruz

    Jessica Cruz

 
 
Updated 11/4/2014 10:32 PM

For the second night in a row, jurors left the Rolling Meadows courthouse without reaching a verdict in the case of a Hanover Park woman accused of strangling her newborn son after giving birth in the restroom of a Streamwood Salvation Army store.

The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours Tuesday, on top of four hours Monday. Their communications with the judge showed they were struggling.

 

Shortly after noon Tuesday, they sent their first note to Cook County Judge Bridget Hughes indicating they were deadlocked. Hughes instructed them to continue deliberating. Late Tuesday, the jurors asked Hughes for sentencing ranges related to first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicide, the three charges Jessica Cruz, 22, faces in the death of her newborn boy. Hughes responded that they should not concern themselves with possible sentences and told them to continue deliberating.

About 5:10 p.m. jurors indicated they were having difficulty reaching a decision, but deliberations continued. Hughes sent the seven-woman, five-man jury home about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Cruz, 22, hid her unwanted pregnancy three years ago from everyone but the baby's father because she feared the reaction from her mother.

The only thing that threatened the life of the healthy, nearly full-term, 6-pound, 11-ounce baby boy was his mother, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Karen Crothers said during closing arguments Monday.

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"She spent eight months lying, making up a story about a rape," said Crothers, adding that when police confronted Cruz with photographs of her dead child, "her No. 1 concern was keeping (police) off her track."

Defense attorneys argued the newborn did not survive the birth and pointed to expert testimony from Dr. Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist who testified that not enough evidence exists to determine if the baby was born alive.

"Babies die every single day during the birthing process, for what, we have no explanation," she said. Prosecutors disagreed, referencing testimony from their own expert, Cook County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, who testified that air in the baby's lungs, bowels and stomach indicated he drew breath and was born alive.

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