I have written a few blog posts concerning my doubts about Melissa Calusinski’s conviction for the first degree murder of 16 month old Benjamin Kingan. (See here for details). Now, the new Lake County Coroner has expressed his own doubts, stating that if the jury understood the medical evidence, they would not have convicted her.
A former daycare worker convicted of murdering a child in her care is hoping that questions raised by the Lake County coroner will help set her free.
In a rare interview about the case, the coroner told FOX 32’s Larry Yellen why he thinks the woman was wrongly convicted.
“I was stunned. It was like a light bulb in a dark room,” said Doctor Thomas Rudd.
Dr. Rudd said when he took office in 2012, he reviewed the autopsy that had been used to convict daycare worker Melissa Calusinski and he was shocked that she was found guilty.
“Did the jury really understand the medical evidence? Okay, if they did, they wouldn’t have convicted her,” Dr. Rudd said.
The Carpentersville woman was convicted three years ago and sentenced to 31 years in prison for the 2009 murder of 16-month-old Ben Kingan at the Minee Subee Daycare Center in Lincolnshire. During a videotaped police interrogation, prosecutors said she demonstrated how she threw the child toward the floor. But the coroner said his review of slides from the autopsy suggests the child died due to a head injury sustained in October 2008, three months before the Calusinski incident.
“We need to find out what happened to this child beforehand. It’s the original injury in October that is the demise of this patient,” Dr. Rudd said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said, ”This is a child that sadly went from normal to dead in a matter of minutes.”
In his first broadcast interview regarding the Calusinski case, Nerheim said there was no evidence that an earlier injury caused the death. He also said the coroner’s concerns about an earlier injury were raised by the defense at trial, and rejected by the jury.
“Even if there was a prior injury, if that injury was aggravated by her conduct, she is still guilty of murder,” Nerheim said.
Doctor Rudd said the jury heard from paid experts for the defense, not his own unbiased opinion. He said the state’s attorney should take another look at the case.
“He knows there’s a prior injury. Why isn’t he investigating what happened?” Dr. Rudd added.
Last winter, an appellate court upheld Calusinski ‘s conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether to hear the case.