Appellate court denies new trial for man who killed former wife near Gurnee
A state appeals court has denied a new trial for a man convicted of murdering his ex-wife in her Gurnee-area home amid a bitter child custody dispute.
In a unanimous decision handed down Tuesday, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois ruled that Lake County prosecutors did not improperly charge David Brocksom under the state's felony-murder rule, which allows a person to be convicted of first-degree murder if the killing occurred as the unintended result of another offense.
In Brocksom's case, prosecutors alleged he killed former wife Beata Brocksom, 48, during a Sept. 27, 2015, home invasion. Brocksom, now 49, was found guilty by a jury in November 2018 and sentenced to 90 years in prison.
Prosecutors alleged the killing was part of an elaborate plot by Brocksom to avoid paying his ex-wife support for the couple's two children. They said Brocksom took the children on a trip that weekend to the Wisconsin Dells, then left them sleeping in the middle of the night while he drove to Beata's home just outside Gurnee.
Authorities alleged Brocksom intended to sneak into the home, kill Beata and then stage her death to look like a suicide. However, Beata woke up and put up a fight. She was shot twice during a struggle but managed to crawl through her window and cry out for help before dying on the lawn.
At trial, Brocksom's defense claimed he traveled to Beata's home early that morning to confront her after one of the couple's children told him they were being abused by their mother. He claimed Beata attacked him using a gun as a bludgeon. He fought back, and Beata was shot during the scuffle, according to defense arguments.
Jurors quickly rejected those claims and convicted Brocksom after less than two hours of deliberations.
In an appeal relying largely on legal technicalities as opposed to claims of innocence, Brocksom argued that prosecutors should not have been permitted to charge him under the felony-murder rule because their case alleged he intended to kill Beata all along and the home invasion was part of that plan.
The court ruled, however, that the home invasion and murder were two separate acts.
"Although the evidence overwhelmingly showed that defendant intended to kill Beata, he also intended to enter her home surreptitiously to do so," Justice Kathryn E. Zenoff wrote. "Thus, defendant contemplated committing multiple distinct criminal acts to accomplish his objective."
The appellate court also dismissed Brocksom's claim that his right to a speedy trial was violated because his case didn't go before a jury until more than three years after his arrest. The court noted that Brocksom never filed a formal request for a speedy trial and consented to multiple continuances over the three years.
Brocksom, who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at the time of the killing, is serving his 90-year sentence at the maximum-security Menard Correctional Center downstate. He is not eligible for parole until September 2105.