Prosecutors can seek mother's medical records in AJ murder case
A McHenry County judge on Tuesday said prosecutors can seek medical records for three hospital visits by JoAnn Cunningham, who is charged with first-degree murder in the April beating death of her 5-year old son, AJ Freund.
Judge Robert Wilbrandt agreed to issue subpoenas for Cunningham's treatment records at three facilities: Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago on March 29, 2018; Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago on July 16, 2018; and Chicago Behavioral Hospital in Des Plaines on July 23, 2018.
AJ was reported missing from his Crystal Lake home on April 18. Cunningham, 36, and AJ's father, Andrew Freund Sr., 60, were charged with first-degree murder and other offenses on April 24 after the boy's body was discovered in a shallow grave near Woodstock. They remain jailed on $5 million bail each.
Generally, medical records are subject to physician-patient privilege. But an exception exists in homicide cases when the disclosure of information relates to the facts or circumstances of the homicide.
McHenry County prosecutors say they don't know what they'll find in Cunningham's records, or in those being sought for Freund Sr., but they need to see if the information relates to the boy's death.
Prosecutors say information regarding drug use could go to motive, ability to recall or indifference to AJ's well-being and could be relevant "as part of the narrative" describing events leading to Cunningham's arrest.
The approval was given over the objection of Assistant Public Defender Richard Behof.
Wilbrandt will review the records in advance to determine what is applicable and can be given to prosecutors. He also approved protective orders for the medical records to keep them out of the public record.
Prosecutors also have received or are seeking records, reports or documents from Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital and the McHenry County Jail pertaining to Cunningham's treatment from April 24, 2019, to Aug. 7, 2019, as well as from a Glen Ellyn doctor and Lurie's Children's Hospital of Chicago pertaining to the treatment of AJ for his entire life -- from Oct. 14, 2013, to April 15, 2019.