The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that it would not accept the case of Melissa Calusinski, a day care worker sentenced to 31 years for the death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan in 2009. Prosecutors alleged that she became frustrated at the boy and threw him to the floor at the Minee Subee Day Care Center.
“I’m not surprised by the decision,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim and even though Calusinksi’s appellate attorneys believe they have a good case for appeal, they agree.
Attorney Kathleen Zellner said that the state’s expert witness has since revised his conclusions to now include evidence the boy suffered an injury the day before Calusinski was watching him.
After questions were raised, Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd reopened the investigation and determined there was a prior injury. He made his decision after reviewing the trial testimony, obtaining new evidence, and analyzing Forensic Pathologist Eupil Choi’s original findings. Choi also reversed his original opinion and now states that the boy “suffered an old injury that pre-dated January 14, 2009,” the date of his death. Choi missed the injury while performing the autopsy.
“They deny a petition for appeal about 98 percent of the time,” Zellner said.
Nerheim said that even if he suffered a previous injury Calusinski is still guilty of exacerbating his condition. Calusinski confessed to police that she intentionally slammed the boy onto the ground out of frustration when he wouldn’t stop crying. Calusinski has maintained her innocence and her attorneys argue that she was coerced during the 10 hour interrogation.
Another of Calusinski’s attorneys, Paul De Luca, wanted the case to be presented to the Illinois State Attorney’s new Board of Review, but the prosecution declined. Nerheim formed the board after being elected in 2012. The office’s reputation has been in question since DNA evidence cleared 4 men who were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of. Juan Rivera, Jerry Hobbs, Bennie Starks and James Edwards spent a combined total of 60 years wrongfully behind bars.
FURTHER READING: Expert Who Helped Convict Woman in Child Killing Admits Error