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Judge denies Adams' routine motion for acquittal

Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 12:32 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 1:19 p.m. CDT

DIXON – A Lee County judge this morning denied the defense attorney's request to acquit Byron Adams of first-degree murder in the suffocation of Margaret Atherton on Sept. 11, 2009.

David Mandrgoc sought a directed verdict – a ruling from the bench before a case is over – after Lee County Assistant State's Attorney Peter Buh rested his case.

Mandrgoc argued that prosecutors had no evidence, other than Adams' "alleged" confession, that linked Adams to Atherton's home at 805 W. First St. That's where police found her body in an upstairs bedroom. Two rolled up socks were in her mouth, a pillowcase was over her head, and her hands were bound with a black necktie, according to trial testimony.

The request for a directed verdict is typical after the prosecution rests, and usually is based on the argument that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove the elements of a crime.

The jury does not hear arguments on such motions. 

Mandrgoc argued that police did not find Adams' fingerprints inside the home, nor did they recover any shoe or tire imprints that linked Adams to the scene.

He also said police recovered only a "minuscule" amount of DNA.

A forensic biologist testified Thursday that she found a mixture of DNA from two men on the knot of the pillowcase and on the necktie. 

Adams could not be excluded from being a DNA contributor on either item, she testified.

Mandrgoc also argued that Adams' confession to police on Sept. 17, 2009, was “based on promises by the police to get a lower sentence” that would allow probation.

Associate Judge Charles Beckman denied the motion.

Dixon Police Lt. Clay Whelan, the lead investigator, was the last prosecution witness to testify this morning.

Whelan showed the jury a slide show of photos taken of the white Pontiac Grand Am that Adams was arrested in 2 days after Atherton was killed.

Through iPass records, the car with the license plate "H204970" was clocked driving west from Chicago and through the Dixon tollway at 11:30 a.m. the day Atherton was killed. It was clocked leaving the same tollway about 12:49 p.m., Whelan told the jury.

Although fuzzy, surveillance video from the Dollar Tree and Walmart show the same make of Grand Am driving through the parking lots.

Police found Atherton's purse in a trash bin behind the Dollar Tree.

Further, surveillance photos taken inside Walmart showed a black man wearing a distinctive black-and-white Raiders outfit and black hat.

Those items were found in Adams' car when he was arrested, Whelan said.

The defense will present its case at 1:30 p.m.

Check back for updates. Follow SVM reporter Tara Becker's trial coverage at shawurl.com/adamstrial or at TaraBecker_SVM on Twitter.

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