Sunday, September 12, 2010

Decatur, IL: Judge to rule on hearsay evidence in death of Dawn Marquis

By HUEY FREEMAN - H&R Staff Writer | Posted: Saturday, September 11, 2010 3:01 am

DECATUR - Before Dawn Marquis was shot to death in front of the home of her former boyfriend on Aug. 24, 2008, she told several people that she believed he was going to kill her or have her killed.
While the people who Marquis told of her fears are prepared to testify at the murder trial of William J. Richter, scheduled to begin next month, hearsay testimony is not admissible as evidence in most cases.
However, prosecutors filed a motion to admit the statements Marquis made about Richter's threats, based on a 1986 Illinois statute designed to help prosecute domestic violence cases.
Richter, 51, is facing three counts of first-degree murder for allegedly directing another man, Joseph I. Hoffman, to shoot Marquis, 43.
Hoffman, 50, who is being tried separately, also is facing three counts of first-degree murder. According to sworn statements by police officers, Hoffman confessed to shooting Marquis. In one statement, Hoffman said he shot Marquis "at the urging of Richter." Hoffman is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial hearing Oct. 5.
At a hearing in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Lisa Holder White on Friday, prosecutors presented 12 witnesses, many of whom testified that Marquis told them Richter made threatening statements to her.
Prosecutors played a tape of a message Marquis left on an attorney's voice mail the day before she was killed.
"He (Richter) pointed his finger at me like he was going to shoot me," Marquis said. "I'm feeling very, very threatened right now."
Richter, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $10 million bond, sat at the defense table, dressed in jail coveralls and wearing ankle bracelets. His jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 18.
Macon County First Assistant State's Attorney Jay Scott argued that the witnesses should be allowed to present Marquis' statements at the trial because the state's case fits all the requirements of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. That law presents specific requirements to allow hearsay evidence to be admitted.
Scott said the law fits because Richter and Marquis had lived together and had two children in common, fulfilling the requirement of a domestic relationship. Because Marquis is unavailable to testify, another requirement is fulfilled.
Scott argued that Marquis' statements were trustworthy because she had no reason to lie about her fears of being killed by Richter. Scott said another requirement was fulfilled because this evidence was more likely to prove or disprove on specific points than any other available evidence.
"It's a matter of fundamental fairness that these come in," Scott said.
Richter's defense attorney, Thomas Penn, argued that this is not a domestic violence case, so the 1986 law does not apply.
Penn contradicted the trustworthiness of Marquis' statements, pointing out things she had told the witnesses, which he called "affirmative lies."
Penn said that Marquis had lied to a female co-worker when she denied to her that she was having an affair with a male co-worker. Penn also pointed out that Marquis told people she found passports for Richter and their children in a closet. Penn's research showed that no passports existed.
Scott argued that it was a big leap to call those statements "affirmative lies." It is not known what Marquis might have seen that she thought were passports, and she should not have been expected to reveal intimate details of her life, Scott said.
After listening to about four hours of testimony, White said she would make a ruling on whether to admit the statements of Marquis within seven days.|421-6985

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