BLOOMINGTON — A McLean County judge granted a select number of discovery requests from the attorneys of Barton McNeil, who is seeking exoneration of his 1999 murder conviction, on Tuesday.
McNeil is serving a 100-year sentence after his conviction in the suffocation death of his 3-year-old daughter, Christina. McNeil has maintained his innocence and has claimed that his ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, was responsible.
In March, McNeil’s attorneys with the Illinois Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project filed a motion to introduce evidence that would corroborate the out-of-court confessions of Nowlin in an evidentiary hearing and a motion for discovery for multiple re-cords. The state also filed a motion to dismiss both of these motions.
However, Yoder only granted four of the defense’s 11 discovery requests. Discovery is the process of exchanging information between the parties about wit-nesses and evidence, according to the American Bar Association.
The approved discovery items include a written list from the state of the names, address and birthdates of each individual they intend to call as a witness at the evidentiary hearing; the production by the state of any materials they intend to use at the evidentiary hearing; correspondence between the state’s or defense’s potential witnesses and anyone acting on behalf of the state; the name and curriculum vitae of any expert the state intends to call as a witness at the evidentiary hearing on this matter; and leave to subpoena Department of Child and Family Services records regarding Nowlin.
Yoder said the court needs to be cognizant of the scope of the requests so the discovery doesn’t amount to a “fishing expedition.” He also granted the defense the ability to present limited evidence to corroborate that Nowlin allegedly confessed to the crime.
Following the hearing, McNeil’s cousin, Chris Ross, and a handful of supporters met outside the courthouse to maintain McNeil’s innocence and present evidence they feel was overlooked.
This included the presence of Nowlin’s DNA, which couldn’t be tested in 1998, on the bed where Christina was killed and Nowlin’s history of threats and violence, which included a 1997 arrest and an incident where she was believed to have smothered her own daughter, and out-of-court confessions.
Ross called on the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to appoint a special prosecutor to begin the process of convening a grand jury for the case.
“And we believe that that jury, that grand jury, would return a verdict of yes, Misook Nowlin should be charged in the first-degree murder of Christina McNeil,” Ross said.
Ross also played an audio clip from McNeil in which he said that even after 25 years, he is no less determined to bring his daughter’s killer to justice.
See attached link to hear Barton McNeil recorded statement
“As would any father of a murdered child, it has been my parental duty to seek justice on behalf of Christina,” McNeil said. “Since the day of my daughter’s death, I pursued her then-obvious killer with all my might in the hopes that Misook Nowlin would be held accountable for what she’s done to Christina.”
Currently, Nowlin is serving a 55-year prison sentence after be-ing convicted of murder charges in the 2011 strangulation death of her 70-year-old mother-in-law, Linda Tyda.
A status hearing in McNeil’s case is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 19.
Contact Drew Zimmerman at 309-820-3276. Follow Drew on Twitter: @DZimmermanLee