Computer expert testifies about X-ray evidence in Calusinski hearing

  • Melissa Calusinski, the former day-care worker convicted of the murder of a toddler, at the conclusion of the hearing on her request for a new trial Friday in Waukegan. Calusinski is serving a 31-year prison sentence for killing 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan at Lincolnshire day-care center.

    Melissa Calusinski, the former day-care worker convicted of the murder of a toddler, at the conclusion of the hearing on her request for a new trial Friday in Waukegan. Calusinski is serving a 31-year prison sentence for killing 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan at Lincolnshire day-care center. Pool/Chicago Tribune, Jose M. Osorio

  • Melissa Calusinski was in Waukegan Friday for the second day of an evidentiary hearing on her request for a new trial. Calusinski, 29, of Carpentersville, is serving a 31-year prison sentence for the murder of a Deerfield toddler at a day-care center. The hearing is continued to Sept. 16.

    Melissa Calusinski was in Waukegan Friday for the second day of an evidentiary hearing on her request for a new trial. Calusinski, 29, of Carpentersville, is serving a 31-year prison sentence for the murder of a Deerfield toddler at a day-care center. The hearing is continued to Sept. 16. Pool/Chicago Tribune, Jose M. Osorio

  • Melissa Calusinski's defense attorneys Doug Johnson and Kathleen Zellner talk Friday during a hearing on their request for a new trial. Calusinski was convicted in 2011 of killing 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan and is serving a 31-year prison term.

    Melissa Calusinski's defense attorneys Doug Johnson and Kathleen Zellner talk Friday during a hearing on their request for a new trial. Calusinski was convicted in 2011 of killing 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan and is serving a 31-year prison term. Pool/Chicago Tribune, Jose M. Osorio

 
 
Updated 8/19/2016 6:25 PM

A computer expert testified Friday during a new trial hearing for a woman convicted of killing a toddler at a day-care that the creation date of an X-ray of the victim's head shows it is not new evidence, as defense attorneys have claimed.

Eric Stauffacher, a computer expert with an X-ray image enhancing software company, said the X-ray was created June 10, 2015, 13 days before defense attorneys filed a 211-page document seeking a new trial for Melissa Calusinski, 29, of Carpentersville.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Defense attorney Kathleen Zellner and Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd have said a "new" set of legible X-rays was discovered that showed 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield clearly suffered from a previous head injury. Those more legible X-rays were not shared with defense attorneys before Calusinski's 2011 trial, court documents show.

However, prosecutors have argued that because newer software programs were used to enhance the original X-rays defense attorneys had, it is not new evidence and the request for a new trial should be denied.

The law states new evidence must be presented in order for Calusinski to receive a new trial, prosecutors have said.

Stauffacher and a former assistant state's attorney were the only two witnesses to testify on the second day of the evidentiary hearing before Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes. Shanes is tasked with deciding if Calusinski should receive a new trial.

The hearing is focused on new evidence Zellner said was uncovered after Calusinski was found guilty of killing Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield in 2009 at the now-closed Minee Subee Day Care in the Park in Lincolnshire. Calusinski is serving a 31-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2011 of throwing the boy to the floor while working at the day-care center.

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Rudd, who testified Thursday as a defense witness, said an anonymous caller in June 2015 told Calusinski's father to find an enhanced set of X-rays at the coroner's office. Rudd testified he found the X-rays after he was contacted by Paul Calusinski and he used that evidence to change the cause of death in the case from homicide to undetermined in July 2015.

Melissa Calusinski was transferred from a downstate prison to attend the hearing, but did not testify this week. She will return to Lake County when the hearing resumes Sept. 16.

If Shanes rules in favor of Calusinski, her murder conviction would be vacated and a new trial set. If the request is denied, she would have the option to contest the ruling with a state appellate court.

In a CBS interview, Calusinski was asked about the possibility of the judge not ruling in her favor.

"I'd be crushed, sad. But I know it's not the end just quite yet," she said.

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