Convicted murderer Jack McCullough will have to wait at least two weeks to find out whether he can be released from his life sentence in Pontiac Correctional Center, as his post-conviction pleadings request.
DeKalb County Judge William Brady told two Chicago attorneys who requested to represent McCullough that he had made commitments to other parties that they would be heard on April 15, adding, "I'm going to stick with what I promise."
McCullough has filed what is known in legal circles as a "Section 2-1401 petition" seeking relief from his conviction based on his actual innocence in the disappearance of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph from her Sycamore neighborhood in December 1957 and her subsequent murder.
His argument appears to be supported by a 38-page filing by current DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack, in which he reports that he could find no evidence that McCullough could have committed the crime.
Attorneys Gabriel Fuentes and Shaun Van Horn have taken over as legal counsel for McCullough in his efforts to have his conviction overturned. Fuentes told Judge Brady that the state submitted fraudulent evidence in the case, that his client is innocent and should be released.
Judge Brady replied that the McCullough case is unusual and unlike anything else in his 40 years in law. Brady said in court that he learns best by listening, and wants the McCullough attorneys to present their evidence instead on April 15. "My courtroom, my rules," the judge said.
Brady noted that he has only had a week to review the case.
But attorney Fuentes responded by saying that McCullough is being denied his liberty, and this represents "further aggravation of a grave injustice."
Judge Brady said he understands what the case means to the community, noting that he is the same age that Maria Ridulph would have been.
McCullough did not appear in court Friday. He is expected to be back in court for the mid-April hearing.
The attorneys also asked Judge Brady to dismiss an emergency motion by Maria Ridulph's brother. Charles Ridulph is requesting a special prosecutor to take the case from the DeKalb County State's Attorney. Judge Brady told McCullough's lawyers Friday that they will have to wait on their motion to dismiss the request for a special prosecutor.
Charles Ridulph did appear in the courtroom Friday morning. Also in the courtroom was former DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell, who was the county's chief prosecutor when the original charges against McCullough were tried.
Schmack had been ordered to review and report on all available evidence in the case and came to the conclusion, published last Friday, that he "had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted. No such evidence could be discovered."
Schmack added two pieces Friday morning to his filing of last week. One is a page from an Illinois State Police report on a survey of military recruiting stations in early December 1957.
The other is a portion of an unrelated court case filing involving a witness called "John Doe" in the September 2012 McCullough trial. That witness claimed that he was offered a "cooperation agreement" in exchange for his testimony against McCullough.
WNIJ's coverage from McCullough's 2012 trial:
Sept. 10, 2012: Day One Ends Early In McCullough Trial
Sept. 11, 2012: Half-Sisters Testify For Prosecution In Trial's Second Day
Sept. 12, 2012: Cellmates, Scientist Take The Spotlight In Trial's Third Day
Sept. 13, 2012: State Rests Its Case At McCullough Trial
Sept. 14, 2012: Convicted By His Own Words On All Charges
WNIJ's Victor Yehling, Susan Stephens, and Jenna Dooley contributed to this report