At the end of the long trial, Christopher Vaughn jurors assemble one last time
BY DAN ROZEK AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters September 20, 2012 8:40PM
Kimberly Vaughn's twin sister Jennifer Ledbetter and her husband Wade leave the Will County Courthouse after Kimberly's husband Christopher Vaughn was found guilty of her murder and the murder of their three children. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:34AM
After spending a grueling five weeks together in a Joliet courtroom, the jurors who quickly convicted Christopher Vaughn of murdering his family adjourned only as far as a tavern down the street.
There, over beers and drinks on a patio at McBrody’s, they rehashed details about the horrific murder case they had been barred from discussing during the trial and barely had time to talk about during their 50 minutes of deliberation.
“We’ve got five weeks of information, and we’re spewing it out like a volcano,” said juror Bob Trax of Homer Glen, one of more than a dozen jurors and alternates who gathered there.
They weren’t alone.
In an unusual scene, most of the participants in the trial also ended up at the popular Joliet watering hole — but not all sitting together.
Kimberly Vaughn’s parents and other relatives gathered in another corner of the tavern, toasting her and her three young children with a round of lemondrop martinis — her favorite drink. They even began applauding as jurors entered McBrody’s.
Several said “thank you” as jurors filed past the family’s table.
Out on the patio opposite the jurors, Judge Daniel Rozak — who presided over the lengthy trial — enjoyed a quiet dinner with other courthouse officials.
Prosecutors led by Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow stopped by to speak briefly with jurors. Assistant State’s Attorney Chris Regis, who delivered a thundering closing argument just before deliberations, posed for pictures with smiling jurors.
Though they convicted his client of murder, defense attorney George Lenard chatted for at least 20 minutes with a handful of jurors.
“They’re nice folks,” Lenard said after talking to the jurors, something he says he does regularly to get feedback about his trial strategy.
“I always speak to jurors, that’s the way you learn,” Lenard said.
Jury foreman Dan Lachat teased Lenard for sounding “like a New Yorker,” but otherwise had only kind words for the veteran defense attorney.
“I thought you did a good job,” Lachat told Lenard.
Jurors, though, had nothing good to say about Vaughn, who showed no emotion when he was convicted coldly shooting his wife and their three young children, Abigayle, Cassandra and Blake. Vaughn reacted the same way when told by Illinois State Police during a videotaped interrogation that his family was all dead.
“Basically, his emotions, with his family dying and being murdered — he had no emotions at all, which was sad to see out of a man,” said Phillip Polakovic, of Plainfield.
Though Lenard argued that Kimberly Vaughn killed her children, wounded her husband then fatally shot herself, several jurors said they never accepted that claim.
“She’s a very caring person. Her children were a very big part of her life and I just couldn’t see her doing something like that,” said Trax, a retired electrical engineer.
Jurors took only two votes — the first one tallied 11 guilty votes, with one juror undecided.
After a brief discussion, the lone holdout — who jurors didn’t identify — quickly shifted his vote to guilty.
“It was pretty clear-cut,” Polakovic said. “The evil and all what he did was horrifying.”
Contributing: The Associated Press