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Craig M. Sandberg Tapped for Appellate Oral Argument in Plaintiff's Bid for New Trial Following Jury's Not Guilty Verdict

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2019

Contact: Craig M. Sandberg, 833.726.3237, craig@sandberglaw.com

Rockford, IL – This case involves the August 20, 2014 high-speed police chase (topping more than 115 mph) initiated in Belvidere by Boone County deputy Robert Rosenkranz, continued into Winnebago County, and ended when the vehicle Deputy Rosenkranz was recklessly pursuing struck the vehicle occupied by a 42-year old lawyer/activist from Rockford (Karen Williams) outside the CherryVale Mall on South Perryville Road in Rockford. One week later, on August 27, 2014, Williams succumbed to and died from her injuries.

Following a 4-day jury trial, on November 30, 2017, the jury found in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff. A timely notice of appeal was filed by the plaintiff.

On appeal,  the plaintiff-appellate contends he should be granted a new trial because of multiple errors made by the trial court resulting in errors warranting reversal because they so influenced the jury that actual and “substantial prejudice" resulted to the plaintiff. Illinois does not define “substantial prejudice”. However, instructively, a Missouri criminal statute, in defining “substantial prejudice”, makes clear that it is applicable to both sides of a cause of action. Mo. Rev. Stat.§ 545.885 (Joint trials for persons jointly charged--exceptions--substantial prejudice defined). “Substantial prejudice” is defined as “a bias or discrimination against the defendant or the state which is actually existing or real and not one which is merely imaginary, illusory or nominal.” Mo. Rev. Stat.§ 545.885.2. In the context of a severance of a joint criminal prosecution, the Supreme Court of the United States held that “substantial prejudice” is defined as a “serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 539 (1993); see also United States v. Eiland, 406 F. Supp. 2d 46, 51 (D.D.C. 2005) (citing and quoting Zafiro).

Illinois law is clear that an error is reversible when it is “shown that the error was substantially prejudicial and, therefore, unduly affected the outcome of the trial.” Pantaleo v. Our Lady of Resurrection Med. Ctr., 297 Ill. App. 3d 266, 281 (1st Dist. 1998). As the Illinois Supreme Court held in Heastie v. Roberts, 226 Ill. 2d 515 (2007) (addressing abuse of discretion in the context of jury instructions), reversal is warranted if the error“results in serious [or substantial] prejudice to a party’s right to a fair trial.” Heastie, 226 Ill. 2d at 543.

Since it is impossible to know with certainty whether the jury relied on the erroneously-permitted evidence in this closely-balanced case; the conclusion is inescapable that the effect of the trial court’s errors are necessarily unquantifiable and a cannot be deemed harmless, those errors (whether taken individually or collectively) were substantially prejudicial and likely affected the outcome of the trial. The plaintiff-appellant requests 

WHAT: Oral arguments begin in Bennie L. Williams III, Special Administrator of the Estate of Karen S. Williams, deceased v. Duane E. Wirth, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Boone County (Docket No. 2-18-0561).

WHO: Craig M. Sandberg will argue for the plaintiff-appellant, before a panel of judges in Illinois Court of Appeals, Second District. Mr. Sandberg was not involved in the jury trial and is not on the briefs filed with the appellate court. However, due to unforeseeable circumstances, lead appellate counsel became unavailable and asked for Mr. Sandberg's assistance on 2-day's notice. Mr. Sandberg is humbled and honored to assist trial/appellate counsel with this oral argument.

Mr. Sandberg has argued 16 cases (8 civil, 8 criminal) to both state and federal intermediate appellate courts. As counsel of record, he has filed over 50 appellate briefs (23 civil, 30 criminal) with the intermediate courts and 19 petitions (9 civil, 10 criminal) with the highest court of the relevant jurisdiction, including the Supreme Court of the United States and Supreme Court of Illinois.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.

WHERE: Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, 55 Symphony Way, Elgin, Illinois 60120

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