The Illinois trial of Texas lawyer Donnie Rudd was thrown into turmoil this week after prosecutor Maria McCarthy made the obviously improper and prejudicial decision to raise the murders of the infamous Drew Peterson before the jury. The Court agreed that McCarthy’s conduct was highly improper but refused a defense motion for a mistrial.
According to The Chicago Tribune, McCarthy could not resist the analogy since Rudd is accused of killing his wife 45 years ago in a staged car accident. McCarthy compared the alleged false death certificates for Peterson’s wife to those completed for Noreen Rudd. Rudd was determined to have died in an accident but prosecutors believe Rudd killed her for $120,000 in insurance money. The judge reacted in understandable anger at the “highly prejudicial” argument but declined to order a new trial.
Rudd claimed his wife was thrown from their car after another driver ran them off a road. However, Dr. Hilary McElligott found that she had died from multiple blows to the head with a blunt object.
Rudd was actually charged after coming under suspicion in a different case involving the shooting death of a woman who made claims against him. The woman was killed in 1991 and police ultimately decided to exhume his wife who was buried after the 1973 accident.
That is an inherently difficult case to prove with the passage of time. However, prosecutors are rarely held accountable for such conduct, even when it later results in reversal. This was an obviously improper and prejudicial tactic and should, at a minimum, prompt State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx to make some public comment about the professional expectations of her office.