Distinct legal styles on display in Drew Peterson, Christopher Vaughn trials
By JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org August 19, 2012 4:56PM
Christopher Vaughn leaves the Will County Courthouse in June. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:08AM
Drew Peterson’s lawyers offer reporters daily press conferences in downtown Joliet.
They’ve been tweeting and blogging their way through the first three weeks of testimony in the former Bolingbrook cop’s murder trial.
But don’t expect any of that when the trial of Will County’s other most notorious murder defendant begins in earnest Monday right next door to Peterson’s.
Vaughn’s defense team — George Lenard, Jaya Varghese and Steven Whitmore — aren’t ones to flock to TV cameras. And they say they don’t tweet.
“I believe what is said about the case should be said in the courtroom,” Lenard said.
Nor are Vaughn’s prosecutors — Assistant State’s Attorneys Michael Fitzgerald, Debbie Mills, Jim Long and Chris Regis — likely to step up to a microphone.
Their boss, Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, comments to reporters from time-to-time during the Peterson trial. When he does, though, he usually keeps it brief and walks away as unsatisfied reporters badger him for more.
The lack of an easy sound bite could help limit the attention paid to Vaughn’s trial, despite the heinous allegations against him.
Vaughn, a 37-year-old Oswego man, is accused of gunning down his wife and three children in their SUV on June 14, 2007. He pulled it onto a frontage road west of Interstate 55 while the family was supposed to be on its way to a water park in Springfield.
Police found the bodies of his wife, Kimberly, and their children — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake — after Vaughn flagged down a passing motorist. He had minor gunshot wounds on his leg and wrist.
Vaughn said his wife started shooting after he stepped out to secure the luggage on the roof. He said he fled the car and when he returned his wife and kids had been shot to death. His lawyers contend Kimberly killed herself after shooting the children.
Lawyers chose eight men and four women to sit on Vaughn’s jury this week. And they spent a few minutes Wednesday talking about a coded poem allegedly taken from Vaughn’s jailhouse cell four months after his family was found dead.
Prosecutors said the poem looks like a list of things to do, and it might include a reminder to ask a question of a dancer Vaughn met at a Chicago strip club.
As sensational as that might be, none of the lawyers involved were caught chatting about it on camera.
Kathleen Zellner, a Downers Grove-based defense attorney who’s known for being media savvy, said the differences between the Vaughn and Peterson lawyers likely comes down to personal style.
“Most attorneys are just very careful with the media,” said Zellner, the attorney for Kevin Fox, who was wrongfully accused of murdering his daughter, Riley, in Wilmington in 2004.
But Sam Adam Jr., the Chicago-based attorney who defended former Gov. Rod Blagojevich during his first corruption trial, said defense attorneys can use the media to shine a light on parts of a case that might otherwise be ignored.
Adam, known for his bombastic style, said it only works in certain cases — and when a client is willing to go along with it.
“It’s a tool,” Adam said.