A Carpentersville woman recently convicted of killing a toddler at a Lincolnshire day care center is seeking a retrial, arguing that the confession that solidified the case against her was false and coerced.
Melissa Calusinski, 25, was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated battery on Nov. 16 in the Jan. 14, 2009 death of Benjamin Kingan, a 16-month-old from Deerfield who was in her care at Minee Subee, a childcare facility in the Park center in Lincolnshire. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23, and the Chicago Sun-Times reports that she could face a life sentence.
But Calusinski's attorneys say that the trial that convicted her was rife with errors, and cited 34 specific incidents in a request for a retrial they submitted to Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes Monday, according to the Daily Herald. Their request hinges in part on a recent appellate court ruling that reversed murder and sexual assault charges against Juan Rivera. Rivera was convicted by the same court system and served nearly 20 years in prison based on a disputed confession, in spite of DNA evidence that excluded him from the crime scene.
Defense attorneys contested Calusinski's videotaped confession even in pre-trial proceedings, alleging it was a product of "psychological and mental coercion," according to Fox Chicago. The teacher's aide's father, Paul Calusinski, told Fox his daughter confessed only after "she couldn't take no more and she wanted out of that room."
Calusinski's defense team claims there are six facts cited by medical professionals who examined Kingan and testified in her trial that contradict details in her confessions, evidence that her admissions to throwing the toddler and causing the injuries that led to his death are false, the Daily Herald reports. Paul Calusinski has consistently refuted a police officer's claim that his daughter said "Daddy, I did it," while on the phone with him shortly after her arrest, a key component in the prosecution's case.
Calusinski's parents maintain her innocence and set up a website that tells her side of the story, and solicits donations to help fund her defense.
The retrial motion will be heard in court during her scheduled sentencing hearing in February, according to the Tribune.