Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Are You a Court Junkie?

by Kim D.

Are you exhausted by #Skittlegate or the angst over Brad and Angelina's breakup news? Put the social media away for a day or two and tune in to a new podcast. Consider it a much-needed Calgon moment.

That was my mindset last night when I saw that Court Junkie had followed me on Twitter. Ever since I had injured my back in the 90's and spent a week at home recuperating and watching the OJ Simpson trial live, I admit it - I'm a court junkie and lover of true crime stories. So, I found the Court Junkie podcast on Itunes and gave it a listen. 

This podcast is the creation of Jillian LeCompte:
I’m fascinated by the human mind and the choices that people make, along with the consequences of our criminal justice system. But above all, I think it’s important for everyone to know about these cases, and to know that anything detailed on this site could happen to any one of us. More awareness of these types of things might eventually lead to safer streets.
If you have a similar true-crime fascination, you will love this podcast. The sound quality is excellent and the information shared about the cases and court proceedings are well researched and professionally presented. The editing is done well mixing LeCompte's narrative of the cases with actual witness audio. While the podcast is new and few episodes are available, I think you will be interested in the first cases presented.

Three episodes cover the story of Melissa Calusinski, a daycare worker who was convicted seven years ago for the death of Illinois toddler Benjamin Kingan. According to LeCompte in Episode 1:
The cause of death was ruled a skull fracture and the manner of death a homicide. Melissa Calusinski, a 22-year-old Teacher’s Assistant at the daycare, was charged and ultimately convicted of his murder. Years later, new evidence was discovered that shows Ben may not have died from a skull fracture after all, and that his death may not have been a homicide.
As a mother whose son dove from a chair head first on our tile floor when he was about Benjamin's age, I found this podcast series fascinating. Thankfully, my son survived his horrific fall with no damage at all, but I can relate to how accidents like this unfortunately happen all the time and perhaps did in the Kingan case. Calusinski was the last caregiver of the toddler before he died and naturally was suspect, but the facts surrounding the case are fuzzy, leading many to believe Melissa has been unfairly convicted.  

Episode 2, Melissa Calusinski's Bombshell Hearings, is enhanced by the fact that LeCompte, a Illinois resident, could actually attend the trial and speak directly to family members. Currently Calusinski's lawyers are arguing for a retrial due to alleged witness perjury and questionable autopsy photos. 

In the original trial, a forensic pathologist provided damning testimony that he had actually attended the toddler's autopsy:
At the trial, Montez said that what he found was “significant trauma, violent trauma to the head,” adding that he then “went to where the organs were kept after the autopsy,” and “looked at the brain itself.”
However now this testimony has been challenged by the coroner who claims the pathologist did not physically see the body and based his opinion on autopsy notes and photos of the brain injury. 

In addition, the defense claims the autopsy photos received from the prosecutor were degraded jpegs and not good representations of the brain injury. When actual tiff images were revealed in 2015, the cause of Benjamin's death was questioned along with the possibility that Melissa was unfairly convicted.
Among the new evidence is legible X-Rays of Benjamin’s skull that were discovered by Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd in June 2015. Calusinski’s attorneys say they prove that the 16-month-old did not suffer a skull fracture, as the prosecution told the jury — 32 times — at Calusinski’s trial.
Yesterday LeCompte recorded a case update after attending day three of the evidentiary hearing which explores new evidence in the case. 

If you like listening to this new podcast, you may also be interested in reading about other cases explored on the website - and if you love listening, you might consider supporting this project on Patreon which will allow Jillian to maintain podcast equipment and provide funding to attend more live court cases and provide an "inside" perspective.

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