The attorney for a woman accused of painting her nails when she was involved in a crash that killed a motorcyclist asked Wednesday that the reckless homicide charge against his client be thrown out. Jeffrey Tomczak argued the presentation of the case against Laura Hunt to a grand jury Sept. 16 was so flawed the state should be barred from prosecuting Hunt on any charges stemming from the crash.
On May 2, Anita Zaffke was seated on her motorcycle at a red light at Old McHenry Road and Route 12 near Lake Zurich when Hunt’s vehicle struck the motorcycle from behind and killed the 56-year-old Lake Zurich woman. Hunt, 48, of Morris, was charged with reckless homicide after an extensive investigation revealed she was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but was polishing her fingernails at the time of the crash. During a hearing Wednesday before Lake County Circuit Judge Fred Foreman, Tomczak said prosecutor Michael Mermel improperly instructed the grand jury that charged Hunt with the crime that could send her to prison for up to five years.
Tomczak said Mermel described the crash and, as he was explaining that Hunt approached an intersection at 50 mph while painting her nails, told the grand jurors “No reasonable person would do that.”To suggest Hunt was acting unreasonably at the time of the crash is to say she was negligent, Tomczak argued, which is a different legal standard than recklessness.To meet the standard of recklessness, Tomczak said, Hunt’s actions would have to be “willful,” “wanton,” and she would have to be aware the actions “presented a strong possibility of death or great bodily harm to another person.”
Because the grand jury was instructed on the wrong standard, Tomczak said, the indictment against Hunt was invalid and prosecutors should be barred from correcting it.Mermel countered that the statement Tomczak targeted was not a legal instruction for the jurors, and state law does not require a grand jury to be presented with every element of a crime. He said past court decisions have held there must be an intent to mislead a grand jury before an indictment can be thrown out, and there was no evidence the jury that indicted Hunt had been mislead. Foreman said he would rule on the matter Feb. 11. Hunt, who is free on $10,000 bond, is scheduled to go to trial March 1 2010.