The woman who pleaded guilty to a 2003 sledgehammer attack against her ex-husband and his wife now claims that it was the former couple’s then-teenage daughter, not her, who was the accomplice, the woman’s lawyer said Tuesday.
Sandra Rogers, now 56, was allowed last May to take back her guilty plea and was granted a new trial, seven years into her 30-year sentence for attempted murder.
Rogers has said she agreed to plead guilty because she was led to believe that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to prove her guilt. That plea was based largely on the prosecutors’ alleged mischaracterization of a message that she purportedly sent to her 17-year-old co-defendant, Jonathan McMeekin of Mundelein, through a jail correctional officer.
Authorities assert that McMeekin and Rogers drove together to her ex-husband's Lincolnshire home in the middle of the night, broke in and surprised the couple in bed. Rogers struck both of them over the head multiple times, prosecutors say, causing injuries so severe that the judge who sentenced Rogers said it was "probably near miraculous" that the two survived.
With Rogers’ retrial set to begin later this month, defense attorney Gillian Gosch sought in court Tuesday to be able to admit as evidence a journal written by Rogers’ daughter.
“That journal described how much she hated her father and how much she wanted him dead,” Gosch said. “We believe that (the daughter) was the accomplice here.”
But Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Pascucci sought to keep the journal from coming up at the retrial.
“It is not uncommon behavior for adolescents to act that way with parents who are strict with them and even say they wish they were dead,” Pascucci said.
Judge John Phillips said he would allow relevant parts of the journal into the trial.
Phillips said he would also allow Gosch to question Rogers’ ex-husband about what led the daughter to leave his home and enter foster care about a year after the sledgehammer attack.
Gosch also argued against allowing the state to admit evidence of a sexual relationship between Rogers and McMeekin, who authorities have said was her daughter’s boyfriend at the time.
“The last time (Rogers) was interviewed, she admitted to having a sexual relationship with Jonathan McMeekin,” said Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney George Papas. “The defendant was 47 and the co-defendant was 17. It was the way she gained the confidence and cooperation of Jonathan McMeekin.”
Phillips said he did find the relationship of the co-defendants relevant and would allow it to come in at the trial.
McMeekin was convicted of attempted murder in the case and remains in prison, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.
Both sides are set to meet again on Thursday to wrap up several more pretrial motions.Copyright © 2015, RedEye