By Amanda Westrich
The Medill Justice Project
Prosecutors and lawyers for Jennifer Del Prete agreed today on conditions for her release on bond, paving the way for her imminent release from prison after serving nearly a decade for a murder she said she didn’t commit.
While they have submitted an agreed proposal to U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly, the conditions of that proposal aren’t known and they could change because it is up to the judge to approve the conditions. Both parties are scheduled to appear at a status hearing Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Chicago.
“We’re hopeful that the judge accepts it,” said Patrick W. Blegen, Del Prete’s lead attorney.
The state Attorney General’s Office, which did not oppose Del Prete’s release, declined to comment.
Last Monday, in a ruling he called “rare,” Kennelly ordered Del Prete be released from prison after posting bond while the courts address her claims, which could take years.
Del Prete, 43, was convicted of first-degree murder in the shaking death of a 3 ½-month-old infant on Dec. 27, 2002, in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville. She was sentenced to 20 years in 2005 and set to be released on parole in March 2025, nearly 11 years from today, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Del Prete’s attorneys filed a state Brady claim in May 2013 and a federal Brady claim this past February, accusing the state of withholding key evidence. The evidence centered on a 2003 letter written by a police detective in Del Prete’s case, which was discovered by The Medill Justice Project and published as part of its investigation last year. In that letter, Police Commander Kenneth Kroll said the forensic pathologist who performed the infant’s autopsy had significant doubts about whether the day care worker had violently shaken the child in what is known as shaken-baby syndrome or abusive head trauma.
In his order, Kennelly said Del Prete “should not have to wait in custody” while her claims are being reviewed by the state courts because “the delay is wholly attributable to the law enforcement authorities who did not disclose to Del Prete” the police detective letter and related evidence.