Woman who killed young daughter in Bloomingdale asks U.S. Supreme Court for release
A woman found not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering her 4-year-old daughter has taken her fight for freedom from a state psychiatric hospital to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lawyers for Marci Webber filed a petition for a writ of certiorari Dec. 29 asking the nation's highest court to consider her plight, after the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal last fall.
They contend Illinois has violated her rights under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which says no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
"The state's continued incarceration of (Webber) constitutes punishment, not treatment," attorneys Terrence Johnson and Thomas Cronin wrote in the petition.
The case has "compelling reasons of national importance to prevent mental health institutions from becoming prisons," they say, noting a 1975 Supreme Court decision that says confining a harmless mentally ill person is unconstitutional.
Webber, a onetime law student from New York, was visiting her mother in Bloomingdale in November 2010, when authorities say Webber killed her 4-year-old daughter, Maggie.
Authorities say she cut Maggie's throat, then told investigators she did it to prevent the girl from being kidnapped by Satan and sold into sexual slavery. Two years later, DuPage County Judge George Bakalis found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
In December 2019, Bakalis granted Webber's release from inpatient treatment, and she moved to Glen Ellyn. But nine days later, DuPage prosecutors got the Illinois 2nd District Appellate Court to issue an emergency stay of the order and Webber was returned to state custody. The court later overturned Bakalis' order releasing Webber, and she has been held at Chicago-Read Mental Health Center ever since.
In a December court hearing, DuPage Judge Daniel Guerin said treatment providers at Read believe Webber does not need inpatient treatment, but he added that she is not cooperating with plans for her release. Webber has disputed those claims and maintains that because she refuses to take medication and criticizes conditions at Read, she is poorly treated. She said she wishes to move in with a family friend in Arizona.
The DuPage County state's attorney's office has until Jan. 14 to file an objection to the petition, and then Webber has until Jan. 31 to reply to any objection.
Webber faces steep odds in getting Chief Justice John Roberts and the rest of the Supreme Court to hear her case. According to supremecourt.gov, the high court received 5,307 petitions during the 2020 term and accepted just 141 of them.
Kane deputy cleared in death
A state appeals court has upheld a lower-court decision dismissing a lawsuit that blames a Kane County sheriff's deputy for the death of an Aurora woman killed while fleeing a traffic stop.
The family of Marcie Lopez sued the sheriff's office, the deputy and a sergeant in 2020, alleging that the deputy's actions caused her to speed away from a June 10, 2019, traffic stop in Aurora. After reaching speeds up to 80 mph, authorities said, Lopez, 49, lost control of her SUV, jumped a median and struck an oncoming Jeep. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
A Kane County judge dismissed the case, ruling that the deputy's actions were protected under the state's Tort Immunity Act. The appellate agreed last week, saying there is no evidence the deputy acted improperly.
In fact, the court ruled, evidence indicates the deputy never reached Lopez's speed and was not giving chase when she crashed.
"The tragic result of Lopez's crash does not transform (the deputy's) conduct from routine to willful and wanton, nor does her decision to accelerate from a full stop transform a traffic stop into a chase," Justice George Bridges wrote in the unanimous decision. "In our view, plaintiff has pleaded no facts that could lead a reasonable person to find that (the deputy's) actions in following Lopez's vehicle exhibited an actual or deliberate intention to harm or a conscious disregard for the safety of either Lopez or others."
Murder trial delayed
The murder retrial of Shadwick King, a Geneva man accused of killing his wife in 2014, has been delayed five months. Blame COVID-19.
King's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, told Kane County Judge John Barsanti this week that one of her assistant lawyers on the case is sick. A paralegal also is sick, and her whole office has been exposed to the disease, Zellner wrote in a court filing.
And an expert witness scheduled to testify at the trial, which was scheduled to start Monday, has qualms about flying due to the current state of the pandemic, Zellner says.
Barsanti continued the case to June 6. Prosecutor Greg Sams did not object. "We completely understand the issues," Sams said.
The trial is expected to take two weeks.
King was convicted in 2015 of murdering his wife, Kathleen, in a jealous rage and putting her body on railroad tracks not far from their home.
But in January 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the conviction and sent the case back for a new trial, because an FBI profiler was allowed to give improper testimony for the prosecution.
King's defense contends that Kathleen King was highly inebriated and collapsed while out jogging near the railroad tracks.
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