2023 April 26 News Article – WGLT National Public Radio – State opposes Barton McNeil’s request for records and confession evidence ahead of June hearing
*** SPECIAL NOTE ***** BELOW IS THE WGLT ARTICLE. LINKS TO BOTH COUNTERMOTIONS FILED BY THE STATE AS WELL AS BARTON MCNEIL COMMENTS REGARDING BOTH FOLLOW THE ARTICLE
WGLT | By Edith Brady-Lunny
Published April 25, 2023 at 10:39 AM CDT
Barton McNeil was convicted of the 1998 suffocation death of his daughter, 3-year-old Christina McNeil, in Bloomington.
Lawyers for Barton McNeil should not be allowed to introduce evidence to support his claims that his former girlfriend confessed to the murder that put him behind bars for life, the state argued in a motion filed in McNeil’s petition for a new trial.
McNeil was convicted of the 1998 suffocation death of his daughter, 3-year-old Christina McNeil, in Bloomington. McNeil found the child in her bed during an overnight stay at his apartment. The day her body was discovered, he told Bloomington police he suspected foul play and urged investigators to talk with Misook Nowlin. The case was featured in WGLT’s 2018 podcast Suspect Convictions.
After a decade in prison, McNeil renewed his assertions about Nowlin, following her arrest for strangling her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda. The Illinois Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project are representing McNeil in his efforts to secure a new trial based in part on a confession Nowlin allegedly made to the girl’s murder.
In a recent court filing, Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll opposed a defense request to introduce corroborating evidence of the alleged confession at a June 6 hearing. Nowlin made the incriminating statement to her ex-husband, Don Wang, according to an affidavit the defense intends to use to support McNeil’s innocence claim.
Allowing the requested evidence would permit the third-stage, post-conviction hearing “to become a retrial of the entire case,” Koll argued.
The prosecutor noted that Judge William Yoder ruled in October that other defense claims of new evidence failed to meet the legal standard for consideration, namely that the potential new evidence must be so conclusive that it would likely change the outcome in a retrial.
The state also pushed back on a defense motion for all law enforcement records related to the investigation into Christina’s death. Lawyers are seeking information gathered before and during McNeil’s trial and since his conviction.
After Nowlin’s arrest on murder charges in the Tyda case, Bloomington Police and the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed their initial opinion that McNeil was responsible for his daughter’s death. McNeil’s lawyers are asking for records, including those that may be in the state’s attorney’s office, that may relate to their investigation into Nowlin as an alternative suspect in Christina’s death.
The records request is “overly broad” in light of the narrow scope of the confession claim and the defense has failed to show good cause for seeking the records, Koll argued. The state is obligated, said Koll, under Illinois Supreme Court rules to disclose “new, credible, and material evidence creating a likelihood” of innocence during post-conviction proceedings.
McNeil has accused authorities of ignoring information he provided early in the investigation about Nowlin’s background of abusing her own daughter and a history of domestic violence. Hours before Christina died, the couple ended their relationship following a clash at a Bloomington restaurant.
McNeil’s legal team also disputes accusations that he molested his daughter, suggesting instead that Nowlin may have entered the home through a window and suffocated the girl in retaliation for the breakup.
THE FOLLOWING BARTON’S COMMENTS REGARDING THE STATE’S COUNTERMOTIONS:
From Barton McNeil
Date Received 4/25/2023
Subject: Thoughts on State’s motions
The shorter of the two, first the PEOPLE’S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO INTRODUCE EVIDENCE CORROBORATING MISOOK NOWLIN’S CONFESSIONS.
More of the same, ASA Koll delegated to continue the SAO’s Misook-friendly anti-justice obsession, just as our Facebook post predicted a few weeks ago. Here Koll argued that Yoder’s prior ruling barring introduction of most of the newly discovered evidence from the broader evidentiary hearing should also preclude its presentation even as mere evidence of corroboration regarding the ONLY newly-discovered evidence allowed presentation at an evidentiary hearing.
Most newly-discovered evidence barred from presentation at an upcoming evidentiary hearing, the only thing left standing are the twin tales of Misook’ s confessions—the very weakest newly-discovered evidence of the lot (by the Yoder/SAO intent no doubt). The confession tales being twice-removed hearsay lacking much weight in and of themselves (as the Yoder/SAO cabal calculated), lacking any evidence of corroboration, say, Misook’s crime scene DNA presence, Yoder will ultimately deny our request for a new trial on the already-laid grounds that the confession tales by themselves are weightless.
Koll draws no distinction between any broader presentation of newly discovered evidence during the third stage evidentiary hearing as a whole, of which Yoder has already denied most of, verses presentation of otherwise-barred newly discovered evidence for the narrow purpose of corroborating the confession tales, without which the confession tales would lack any meaningful weight at all.
Supposing an otherwise-best case scenario where everything goes our way at an evidentiary hearing… the confession tales in and of themselves will fall far short of justifying a new trial. Only if accompanied by meaningful evidence of corroboration MIGHT the confessions warrant a new trial, thus why the SAO wants such evidence of corroboration barred from presentation at the big hearing.
The lengthier motion of the two is the PEOPLE’S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR DISCOVERY.
Here Koll seeks to have Yoder deny our request for DISCOVERY regarding paragraphs I.1, I.2, I.3, I.8, I.9, I.10, & I.11 of our own MOTION FOR DISCOVERY. These paragraphs share commonality with each other in that they all concern evidence/records relating to the murders of Christina and Tyda alike, and Misook’s involvement thereto. Koll argues that pretrial rules of DISCOVERY don’t apply to post-conviction proceedings (true) and that it’s entirely up to the judge whether to grant our DISCOVERY request or not (Yoder guaranteed to not), and that our DISCOVERY request “is too broad”.
However Koll doesn’t oppose the granting of our motion’s paragraphs I.4, I.5, I.6, and I.7 which concerns the confession-related evidence only, provided the judge order that we reciprocate. Here Koll is not only agreeing to comply with the (pretrial) principals of DISCOVERY, but is essentially asking Yoder to issue an order for US to disclose to the State in advance of the distant evidentiary hearing everything WE have regarding the confession tale.
While Koll is opposed to disclosing what they have regarding the murders of Christina and Tyda more broadly, Koll is ADVOCATING for MUTUAL compliance to the very same (pretrial) principals of DISCOVERY when it comes to the specifics of the confession tales alone.
Since prosecutors surely know we already have the bulk of the materials/files regarding the murders of Christina and Tyda, I wonder if there’s something else in there, perhaps new, that they don’t want us to have. Or maybe not.
The bottom line here is that the State is trying to severely limit our efforts—the Kabuki theater stage already set by Yoder’s prior dismissal of the bulk of newly-discovered evidence—to matters strictly confined to the confession tales and nothing else—not even evidence of corroboration that also happens to be highly exculpatory in and of itself. – B