Ten days after announcing murder charges against a man whose DNA matched blood found at the scene of a 1994 slaying at a
appliance store, a Lake County prosecutor asked a judge today for more time to do paperwork before dropping the charges against the man wrongfully convicted of the crime.
James Edwards, 63, confessed to killing Fred Reckling after his arrest in 1996, and Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller personally helped prosecute him.
Edwards was convicted and is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors knew at trial that blood at the scene matched neither Reckling nor Edwards, but they argued that it could have come from one of Reckling's employees in a wound unrelated to the crime.
Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic today filed a motion to drop the murder charges against Edwards. However, Lake County Circuit Court Judge John Phillips said that the case must first be reinstated and then dismissed in order for him to have jurisdiction over it. Phillips said that the state's motion simply needed to be re-worded by agreement of both parties.
Pavletic then said he must speak with the state appellate defender before he could agree to the rewording. The prosecutor asked for more time, and Phillips rescheduled the hearing for Tuesday.
"Every day is another day of wrongful imprisonment," commented attorney Doug Johnson, who was in court observing. Johnson is an attorney with Kathleen Zellner's office.
Zellner represents Jerry Hobbs in a lawsuit against Lake County. Hobbs spent five years in jail awaiting trial in the deaths of his daughter and her friend before he was cleared and another man charged.
Edwards' confession to the Reckling killing came after he was arrested in 1996 in connection with an armed robbery at a motel. He was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison after being found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life.
Edwards has yet to start serving the robbery sentence, but his lawyer, Paul De Luca said today that he hopes a judge will grant a new sentencing hearing in the robbery and apply the time he served for the murder to the robbery term.
But even with that credit, Edwards would still have 14 years left to serve, De Luca said.
Edwards also faces murder charges in Ohio, a confession gained during the same 25 hour interrogation when he confessed to the Reckling murder, De Luca said.
"We expect to challenge that confession," he said. Police investigators "went state to state and he confessed to a lot of things."
Continued delays are beginning to wear on Edwards defense team.