http://wglt.org/post/suspect-convictions-episode-3-does-modern-forensics-undercut-sex-assault-motive (Click here)

Scott Reeder and Willis Kern get caught up in this episode discussing the emotionally charged allegation that Christina McNeil was sexually abused before death. The sensationalism of his allegation would certainly have swayed anyone towards convicting Barton McNeil. Yet there was no DNA, no penetration; just a little redness, swelling, and slight blood found in connection with her body. Remember too that police initially regarded Christina’s death as natural. Was her body injured when examined or samples were taken? Body orifices swell after death & Chrisina‘s was nearing rigor mortis.

Prosecutors didn’t charge Barton McNeil with sexual assault, so it’s likely they knew the evidence wasn’t strong enough to support them doing so, but the allegation was used at his trial. Yet, no one, especially Christina’s conscientious mother Tita saw any signs of abuse. We think it’s most likely that Christina was not sexually abused before she died. Reeder and Willis should have discussed how prosecutors were even able to raise this claim or suggest it at trial and how the court allowed it. We think this claim has little credibility. It’s credible to believe that Christina was killed by someone; an intruder, or possibly Misook Knowlin. Suffocating her quietly is possible. It really stretches credibility to believe that the person who killed her also sexually abused her at the same time. Attention is focused on her parents, and we seriously doubt either had a motive to do so.  Hopefully Reeder and Willis will spend time discussing the latitude prosecutors have in raising at trial inflammatory issues like this and using them to convict on slim or no evidence.

More critical is what Reeder mentions happened to Christina’s body: that it was cremated before a defense pathologist could examine it & that the court and Barton’s lawyer both agreed to this.If Barton’s lawyer was a party to this, that supports Barton McNeil’s claim that his attorney failed to represent him properly. Basically, by not opposing immediate cremation and ensuring the pathologist inspected the body, Barton’s attorney allowed the “spoliation” (or destruction) of critical and potentially exculpatory evidence against Barton McNeil.

Comments
  1. inflammatory and unsubstantiated prosecutorial claims cloud the process and lead to unlawful convictions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John Ross says:

    Very good and astute comment. Yes Christina was cared for by her father Barton, but she was also in the custody of her mother, and her daycare. Tita McNeil attended church with Christina exposed to yet other persons. If she had been molested which is horrible, what motivation would a father have to do this to his own 3 1/2 year old daughter? Yet just as the comment raised, prosecutors used this as the motive for Barton smothering his daughter with whom he loved. Neighbors reported that he was a good father to her. On the night of her murder, he had purchased Christina her favorite McDonald’s Happy Meal. Prosecutors to not need to assign a murder to convict someone. Some people are simply cold blooded murderers and have not real motive. But they raised the disgusting spector of this and told the press this who then ran with it in order to further taint Barton from receiving a fair trial. And worse knew that they had no physical evidence and therefore all Prosecutors needed to do was to insinuate this. They raised this possible motive at trial. It clearly weighed on the judge’s concious by sentencing Barton to the Maximum sentence possible: Life imprisonment. This sentence was later determined by the Illinois Supreme Court as not allowed, so Barton had to be resentenced to anywhere from 40-100 years. So 3 years after his conviction the same judge who had sentenced him to a life sentence, Judge Michael Prall (now retired), re-sentenced Barton McNeil to 100 years. Meanwhile Misook Nowlin who Barton claimed was the person who had the motive to murder his daughter, was convicted of four 1st degrees of murder: premeditation of murder, the murder itself, murder of an elderly person, and hiding the body from authorities buy making the victim nude and burying her in a forest preserve. What was her sentence in this same McLean County courtroom? 50 years. It is the point of this comment and the one preceding that yes prosecutors have wide attitude in which to introduce evidence of their choosing, whether supported or not by physical evidence. Circumstantial evidence such as somebody was dissatisfied that their client was not victorious is evidence enough in the unfortunate of Richard Wanke. It is reasons like this our prisons are teeming with prisoners, many of which profoundly innocent like Barton McNeil and Richard Wanke are, meanwhile the real killers, like Misook Nowlin Wang, are free to kill again. Just as she went onto kill her mother-in-law Linda Wenlan Tyda.

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