Attorney: Investigators rushed to judgment in Burlington man's death
Defense attorneys for a man accused of murdering his father last year in his Burlington Township home argued Monday that investigators made quick and erroneous assumptions and, as the investigation progressed, decided to charge Daniel Rak with murder no matter what.
"From Day 1, there was a decision made immediately, and they were biased by their own snap judgments and unable to view things objectively," argued Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress on behalf of Rak, 31, who is charged with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors argue a blow from Daniel broke Jeffrey Rak's nose during a fight and caused bleeding on the brain, which worsened. The swelling caused pressure on the parts of Jeffrey Rak's brain that control the heart and breathing functions, killing him a little over two days later on Feb. 14, 2016, medical experts have testified.
Childress argues that the elder Rak's many ailments could have been exacerbated by a fall from his bed and caused his death. Rak was an alcoholic, prone to seizures and falls, and had liver and heart disease.
Childress questioned why officials at the Kane County coroner's office didn't order more extensive toxicology tests on the elder Rak, a former veterinarian, after numerous boxes of animal medication were found in his bedroom at his home on Engel Road near Sycamore.
"We were told it was a suspected homicide," Coroner Rob Russell testified. "Our role is to determine the cause and manner of death. It's not to determine criminality. We follow the evidence that's there and collect what's relevant."
Daniel Rak was questioned and held by authorities for two days but later released without any charges while investigators waited for tests from a neuropathologist.
Childress cited an email sent by Kane County Sheriff's Department Lt. Brian McCarty in mid-Febraury 2016 to members of the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force that indicated he was "disappointed" Rak was not being charged at the time but that he was "very confident" murder charges would be filed in the future.
McCarty testified he was merely providing support to his staff as a supervisor and manager. "I was simply sending information out to all my staff," he said.
Rak has been held at the Kane County jail since his indictment and arrest in early June 2016. He faces 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.