Byline: Charles Keeshan Daily Herald Staff Writer
Amid defense claims of prosecutorial misconduct, a McHenry County judge agreed Thursday to postpone the murder trial of former Fox Lake police officer John Cumbee for the fourth time this year.
The delay came after a heated exchange between Cumbee attorney Jed Stone and county prosecutors over the sudden appearance of lab notes from an expert witness who testified in the defendant’s first trial nine years ago.
Stone alleges prosecutors hid the notes because they contradict state claims that Cumbee, 42, beat his former girlfriend to death with a fire poker in April 1992. The notes indicate material imbedded in the wounds of Kathleen Twarowski could be vinyl, rubber or leather, components not usually found on a fire poker.
“Had these notes been given to the defense 10 years ago, Mr. Cumbee might not have been found guilty in his first trial,” Stone said. “It’s shameful. It’s inexcusable and it goes to the very heart of their case.”
Prosecutors, however, said Stone’s claims are completely misguided. The notes, Assistant McHenry County State’s Attorney George Kililis said, belonged to a defense witness from the first trial, not a prosecution expert. Moreover, he said, the witness covered the material in a report he wrote before the trial and later testified about it at trial.
“The information which they claim so drastically changes this case was duly disclosed,” a visibly upset Kililis said. “The only thing they had to do was check for easily found facts in the case’s record.