UPDATED: Wilson's New Attorney: Client's Location 'A Problem'
The public defender assigned to represent the man accused of murdering 14-year-old Lyons Township teen Kelli O'Laughlin said his client's incarceration nearly 100 miles away could pose a problem.
UPDATED 5:54 a.m. May 31
The assistant public defender assigned to represent John L. Wilson, the man charged with stabbing to death 14-year-old Lyons Township teen Kelli O'Laughlin, met his client Wednesday for the first time.
"It's insane for a person not to have an attorney," Carroll told Patch after the May 15 hearing. "That's like asking me to rebuild my own car engine."
The judge asked Wilson at the time if he wanted some time to think about his decision.
"I think you need to think hard and fast. These are serious matters. I believe there is forensic evidence in this case. DNA also. Much of this is very difficult for a lay person to understand. I strongly urge you to accept the appointment of a public defender," Judge John Joseph Hynes told Wilson on May 15.
Wilson is facing a 31-count felony indictment, which includes a potential sentence of life in prison for the first-degree murder charges alone. He agreed to accept the services of a public defender.
David McMahon is an assistant public defender at the Fifth Municipal District Courthouse in Bridgeview—one of two attorneys there who handle murder cases, he said. He was assigned to defend Wilson and is so new to the case that he has yet to see any of the police reports related to the O'Laughlin murder.
"At this point, you know more about the case than I do," said McMahon to reporters outside the courtroom.
**Patch made some inquiries to find out the typical caseload of a public defender at the Fifth Municipal District Courthouse in Bridgeview. According to Jack Verges, a supervisor at the Cook County Public Defender's office, those numbers are not currently available. Verges did say, however, that there has been a steep rise in people requiring the services of a public defender in recent years.
"More and more people are losing their jobs and can't afford to hire an attorney," said Verges. Verges said all of Cook County's public defenders, including McMahon, are "overburdened."
McMahon met briefly with his client for a few minutes Wednesday.
"I told him 'I'm the attorney assigned to your case'," said McMahon "[Wilson] said, 'OK.'"
McMahon filed a motion of discovery at Wilson's hearing Wednesday.
Patch asked McMahon if the distance to the Pontiac Correctional Facility, where Wilson is currently being held, would pose any issues. Wilson's former attorney, Carroll, said having his client so far away made it difficult for him to mount a defense.
The detention facility in Pontiac is nearly 100 miles south of Chicago on I-55.
"That's a problem," said McMahon. "Just one of them."
Wilson is due back in court for a status hearing on June 27.
*This article was updated from the time of its original publication with quotes from Jack Verges, a supervisor at the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender.
**Although numbers for the current caseload of public defenders and assistant public defenders in Bridgeview were not available at the time of this article's publication, Patch is continuing to look into this.