DIXON – A Lee County judge on Friday refused to grant convicted killer Byron Adams a new trial or to reconsider his sentence.
Adams was convicted in October of first-degree murder for the suffocation of Margaret Atherton, 35, of Dixon, on Sept. 11, 2009. Adams was sentenced in December to 60 years in prison.
Defense attorney David Mandrgoc argued the jury had found Adams guilty based on perjured and prejudicial testimony.
Mandrgoc also took issue with the court’s allowing prosecutors to use statements Adams made to police after his arrest. He argued Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss promised Adams a reduced sentence during an “intensive” interrogation.
Associate Judge Charles Beckman in May denied a motion to suppress those statements.
But Mandrgoc argued the jury found Adams guilty only because his statements to police were admitted into the court record.
Beckman denied the motion for a new trial.
He said the court has considered the motion to suppress evidence and a motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment – the crux of the motion for a new trial – “once, twice, thrice.”
“There is nothing new that has been presented in any of those that would cause this court to now reconsider either of those rulings,” Beckman said.
Mandrgoc argued, too, that Adams would be 111 years old by the end of his sentence, which, the defense lawyer suggested, was “excessive” given Adams’ heart problems and diabetes.
The defense also contended that Adams was remorseful and even said in a letter to the court that he had “no intention [of murdering Margaret Atherton]. ... it was truly an accident.”
Mandrgoc argued that the court had failed to consider, as mitigation, that Adams had testified on behalf of the state in the murder of a Department of Corrections officer when he previously was incarcerated. He said, too, that the court had failed to mention to the Department of Corrections that gang members likely would have a “hit” out on Adams for his testimony and he should not be placed in certain prisons.
Beckman said Adams might say the suffocation was an accident, but “the facts show just the opposite.”
“He forced her into a bedroom, put two socks in her mouth, pulled a pillowcase over her head and twisted it until she died,” Beckman said. “This was a deliberate act done to silence the victim.”
He added that the court gave no credit to the testimony Adams gave in the murder case almost 20 years ago. He also said the court cannot direct the Department of Corrections to place criminals in specific facilities.
Adams on Friday filed a handwritten motion for a new trial based on ineffective counsel.
Beckman said much of the motion dealt with trial strategy, which does not rise to the level of “incompetence” on the part of the defense attorney.
The judge also denied that motion.
Adams, per his rights, immediately filed a notice to appeal the judgment and his sentence.