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Microbiologist Arraigned on Murder Charges

At a California hearing, former Northwestern University Professor Wyndam Lathem stood formally accused of the murder of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau. The 26-year-old man was found stabbed to death in the 42-year-old professor’s Chicago apartment. Prof. Lathem’s counsel suggested that he will waive extradition back to Illinois, setting up a possible Chicago jury trial.

Shortly after they found the body, authorities issued arrest warrants for Prof. Lathem and 56-year-old Andrew Warren, who works in the accounting department at Oxford University. The two hastily travelled to California, where Prof. Lathem apparently has personal connections. During their flight, Prof. Lathem released a video in which, according to police, he admitted to making “the biggest mistake of his life.” In a possible preview of the defense strategy, Prof. Lathem’s counsel said the accusation against his client “is totally contrary to the way he has lived his entire life.”

Police theorize that Mr. Cornell-Duranleau and Prof. Lathem, who lived together, had a violent lover’s quarrel.

Physical Evidence in Criminal Cases

At first blush, the evidence against Prof. Lathem seems almost overwhelming, which probably explains why he fled the jurisdiction. However, with the glaring exception of the video, nearly all the evidence is circumstantial. In murder or any other criminal cases, circumstantial evidence is subject to interpretation.

The burden of proof is so high in criminal cases that the state’s attorney must essentially prove that the state’s theory of the case is the only possible interpretation that a rational person could have, and in many cases, that degree of evidence is simply not available.

Almost anyone who has ever seen a Columbo rerun goes by the following outline when examining circumstantial evidence, so this is the outline that prosecutors often use, even though it has little or nothing to do with the legal elements of a murder case.

  • Motive: At this point, there is no evidence of motive, as the law enforcement “lover’s quarrel” idea is only a police theory. Even if the two did have such a dispute, which would probably need verification from a third-party witness or at least several text messages, the O.J. Simpson murder trial reminded us that juries understand the difference between a domestic batterer and a murderer, even though both are utterly deplorable.
  • Means: Once again, unless the police can link Prof. Lathem to a knife, the stabbing idea is only a theory that will not hold up in court.
  • Opportunity: Although the incident took place in Prof. Lathem’s residence, prosecutors probably need more evidence, such as surveillance video indicating that he was probably home at the time, before they meet their burden of proof.

Many other criminal cases, most notably DUI test refusal prosecutions, involve circumstantial evidence and a similar analysis.

The Video

The actual footage is unavailable, so it is impossible to know exactly what Prof. Lathem said or did not say. However, if the police version is accurate and a jury sees the video, it could be tantamount to a confession.

Generally, out-of-court statements are inadmissible hearsay if they are used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. But a statement against interest is a well-recognized exception. Essentially, hearsay is inadmissible because it is not trustworthy, and the theory is that people who volunteer incriminating information about themselves are probably telling the truth. So, a hearsay objection would almost certainly fail.

A better approach would be to challenge relevance, specifically objecting that the video is unduly prejudicial. Although it is reasonable to assume that the alluded-to “mistake” was fleeing the jurisdiction, one or several jurors might well conclude that Prof. Lathem was talking about the murder, therefore inflaming the jury.

Count on Experienced Attorneys

Circumstantial evidence is almost always much weaker than it seems. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Antonina Bukowska)

Stephanie Olsson again recognized as a leader in Divorce Representation in Illinois

Stephanie Olsson, a partner at Glasgow & Olsson who has represented many Illinois clients in multimillion dollar divorces and complex custody issues, has just been named a top divorce attorney by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys for 2017. Her aggressive and insightful way of succcessfully representing her clients was recognized by this award which comes on the heels of her being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star earlier this year. Only 10 Illinois lawyers under 40 received the prestigious honor which the NAFLA bestows after rigorous process that begins with a third-party nomination and then moves to a NAFLA screening process. Finally, the Board of Governors selects the 10 most qualified candidates.

Unlike some other attorney ranking organizations, NAFLA is primarily an information clearinghouse dedicated to “Providing the public with the most accurate and up to date information and qualified family law attorney listings in their state to represent them.”

A Successful Approach

Perhaps more so that some other areas of law, family law requires a balanced approach. It is obviously important to know the law, and it is just as important to be an effective counsellor who not only conveys the relative strengths and weaknesses of a case, but also gives proper insight to the clients into the non-legal aspects of the case.

Similarly, it is important for an attorney to aggressively represent clients in all family law actions. However, if child custody is an issue, for example, it is usually a mistake to be an overly-aggressive “bulldog” attorney, as a judges may conclude that anyone who uses such tactics in court would probably be a contentious or ineffective co-parent.

Stephanie obviously has this balanced approach that enables her to serve her clients so well, and her legal peers continually recognize them. In fact, earlier this year, Stephanie was named a Super Lawyer Rising Star. She has been sought out for representation by clients who recognize her expertise and is respected by her peers in this field as being a thorough, smart and tough adversary in the Courtroom.

Family Law at Glasgow & Olsson

In addition to our criminal defense practice, Glasgow & Olsson is a full-service family law firm. We routinely handle cases throughout Chicagoland specifically involving:

  • Property Division: Illinois law requires equitable distribution of marital property, which is often not the same thing as an equal distribution. These cases usually involve complex commingling and classification issues as well.
  • Child Custody: Judges must ensure that all decisions are in the best interests of the children involved, as opposed to the best interests of a parent.
  • Domestic Violence: For both alleged abusers and alleged victims, the stakes are incredibly high in these proceedings, especially when there is a parallel child custody proceeding. Everyone deserves the strongest possible voice in domestic violence disputes.
  • Alimony: Lawmakers recently reworked this area of the law, and although spousal support is much more limited than it used to be, it is still an integral part of almost all divorce settlements.
  • Mediation: Most all of these disputes, with the exception of domestic violence matters, often go to mediation at one time or another, and although the forum is slightly different, our mission as lawyers representing our clients remains the same, which is to protect our clients’ legal and financial interests.

We handle other areas of family law as well, such as prenuptial agreements. A prenuptial agreement gives the bride and groom an opportunity to address possible areas of disagreement and put these disputes to rest before they have any chance to poison the relationship.

Rely on Experienced Lawyers

We are committed to the success of Illinois families, whatever their components. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

Recording Private Conversations in Illinois

In the old days, it was fairly easy for people to determine if their personal conversations were being recorded because private recording equipment was so arcane that about the only way to obtain reliable audio was to stick a microphone in someone's face. But today, with just a couple of taps, almost anyone can record almost anything that someone else says.

With cell phones, just about anyone can record a conversation anywhere or even livestream the interaction without the other party knowing, but the important legal question is do you want to take that action knowing that recording someone without their permission can result in incarceration ranging from 1-7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections?

Most people’s confusion about the leagality of recording others comes in the different legal standards in different jurisdictions.

There are one party consent jurisdictions. These generally provide:

  • That it is not illegal to record a conversation between multiple parties, so long as at least one party to the conversation has consented to the recording.
  • The practical effect is that individuals may record conversations that they are a party to (i.e., the recorder is the one party who has consented).

Illinois is NOT a one party state. Illinois is a two party consent state. This means that ALL the parties to the conversation MUST consent for the recording to not violate the law. Two party consent jurisdictions generally provide:

  • That it is illegal to record a conversation unless all parties to that conversation have consented to the recording.
  • These are also referred to as "all-party consent" statutes
  • Statutes are classified as two-party consent even if they only require it in limited situations (e.g., the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which only requires two-party consent for conversations in which a party has a reasonable expectation of privacy)

Thus is you are accused of violating this statute, the question will become, was there a reasonable expectation of privacy to the conversation?

The Big Picture

Under the Constitution, people have a right to keep private conversations private, so the no-recording rule generally applies in situations that involve a reasonable expectation of privacy.

This expectation still arises in a number of situations. Attorney-client, doctor-patient, and broker-client spring immediately to mind. In fact, the attorney, doctor, and broker all face substantial disciplinary or other sanctions if they wrongfully use the information they obtain in such discussions.

Illinois Law

The law in the Prairie State is fairly well-established, and requires both parties in a private conversation to consent to its recording. As for private conversations, the new law somewhat clarifies the expectation of privacy, as it prohibits:

  • Surreptitious Recording: An act is surreptitious if it is done in secret, a high degree of concealment, and/or some deception.
  • Private Conversation: Here again is the reasonable expectation of privacy issue, which in today’s world, is applicable only in a few situations..

In other words, if the recorded party has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the recording party secretly records a conversation anyway, the recording party is guilty of a felony. To clarify, Illinois is a state where the law requires the consent of both parties before a conversation can be recorded, with limited exceptions to that rule.

In addition to surreptitious private recordings, the penal code also prohibits intercepting third-party conversations, manufacturing an eavesdropping device, and using any information “which he or she knows or reasonably should know was obtained from a private conversation or private electronic communication in violation of this Article.”

Recording Conversations at Work

Conversations at work sometimes come with little or no expectation of privacy, such as watercooler talk, conference room meetings, and so on. However, the conversation may be transformed into a private conversation in discussing things like trade secrets, business practices or strategies, or human resource issues. Private discussions still require the consent of both parties, especially if a professional, like a doctor, lawyer, or accountant, is at all involved in the conversation.

In any situation, a first offense is a Class 3 felony (maximum 2-5 years and $25,000 fine) and a subsequent offense is a Class 2 felony (maximum 3-7 years and $25,000 fine).

Count on Experienced Attorneys

With today’s technology, you can record almost any conversation, but just like Grandmom used to say, “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.” Think twice before you decide to record that conversation.

For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Kate Reinholdtsen)