Yang lawyers gain access to evidence concerning former Bears player Gayle
A Lake County judge agreed Thursday to allow attorneys for Marni Yang -- convicted in 2011 of murdering the pregnant girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle -- access to evidence related to Gayle's alibi.
Yang, 52, is serving two life sentences for killing Rhoni Reuter and her unborn child in 2007. Yang's attorneys are seeking a new trial.
Judge Christopher Stride ruled the defense should be able to access a VHS tape containing surveillance footage of a barbershop that Gayle said he was at around the time of the murder. Stride also allowed the defense team to be informed of information about any agreements or deals between Gayle and prosecutors.
Police questioned Gayle after the murder, but ruled him out as a suspect. An email for comment sent to Donna A. Rotunno, an attorney who represented Gayle, was not immediately returned.
In a 184-page motion to dismiss Yang's appeal, prosecutors from the Lake County State's Attorney's Office wrote that Gayle cooperated with police investigators immediately after learning of Reuter's death and was able to provide a timeline of his activities.
"It is clear that the Defendant continues to rehash these salacious claims regarding Shaun Gayle for their sensationalism value in an effort to deflect from her own clear guilt," reads the document, which was posted online Wednesday night. "While such sensationalism has value in selling dramatic novels, it has no place in a court of law."
Yang's defense attorney Jed Stone told reporters after the hearing that Stride's rulings were important for the case.
"We took a major step forward today toward exoneration," Stone said. "It allows us to accumulate additional heretofore undisclosed evidence pointing to Marni Yang's actual innocence."
Both sides have offered dramatically different descriptions of the evidence presented at Yang's original trial.
Stone told reporters that a medical bracelet Reuter owned, which was found by investigators 18 months after she was murdered, was one of the most curious pieces of evidence he's encountered.
"It was found on top of leaves and grass, not buried, not concealed," Stone said. "The state would like us to believe that a bracelet sat through the fall of 2007, the winter of 2008 ... and yet it was pristine when found in 2009."
But in the motion to dismiss, prosecutors wrote that Yang's team offered no evidence that the bracelet was found in that condition.
"Officer Chris Fry testified how the bracelet was found buried in the ground after an extensive search that involved the use of medical (sic) detectors and then digging in the ground with his hands after the metal detectors detected something," the motion reads. "The bracelet still appeared to have dirt on it when it was displayed during the trial."
Stride denied three of the seven motions filed by Yang's defense team, including a request from defense to examine data on phones and computers belonging to Reuter as well as requests to learn of deals between prosecutors and two other witnesses.
Yang did not appear in court Thursday. Both sides are due back for a status hearing on March 26.