Marni Yang's bid for new trial clears first hurdle
A Lake County judge Tuesday cleared the way for Marni Yang to move forward with her bid for a new trial on charges she murdered the pregnant girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle and her unborn baby.
Yang, serving two life sentences for the 2007 slayings, claims in court documents filed earlier this year that new evidence will exonerate her. That includes an unknown male's DNA discovered on five unspent bullet shells found at the crime scene, according to her lawyer.
In a statement released after the court decision Tuesday, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said because the judge was required only to review Yang's argument without a response from prosecutors, Tuesday's ruling was not unexpected.
"At stage two (of the process), we will have the opportunity to respond to the claims made by the defense for the first time," Nerheim said.
Yang, 51, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 for killing Rhoni Reuter, 42, and her unborn child in Deerfield on Oct. 4, 2007.
Prosecutors said Yang had both a professional and personal relationship with Gayle and became intensely jealous of Reuter, who was carrying the former pro football player's child. They alleged that after months of planning, Yang sneaked into Reuter's Deerfield condo and shot her six times.
Yang was arrested and charged two years later. Evidence against her included secretly recorded conversations between her and a friend, in which Yang can be heard describing the fatal shooting.
Defense attorney Jed Stone said Tuesday he would present DNA evidence in court proving Yang's innocence. The DNA testing was conducted by Dr. Karl Reich, who Stone described as one of the preeminent DNA experts in the world.
"I'm confident we can provide the state with everything that we need to have Dr. Reich come into court and explain the DNA in this case, which exonerates Marni," Stone said.
In explaining Yang's recorded statement about the slayings, Stone said his client knew she was being recorded and said she killed Reuter because she had heard police were interested in arresting her then 16-year-old son for the crime.
The retrial effort kicked off with a news conference last month in which the now adult children of Yang said they were forced to implicate their mother by overzealous investigators and prosecutors.
An appeals court denied Yang's 2013 bid for a new trial.
Lake County Judge Christopher C. Stride on Tuesday gave Nerheim's office until Feb. 20 to file a motion to dismiss Yang's petition for a new trial. Stride also set a status hearing for Jan. 15.