CHICAGO (CBS) — The case drew national attention – a woman who was pregnant with former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle’s baby was murdered, and a woman with whom Gayle was sleeping on the side was convicted.
But now nearly nine years later, the new attorney for Marni Yang says she didn’t do it.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported, Yang’s lawyer wants a new trial at the least and her conviction overturned at most.
On Oct. 4, 2007, Rhoni Reuter and her unborn baby were killed. In March 2011, a Lake County jury convicted Yang of murder, saying she wanted to eliminate Reuter as a romantic rival.
At trial, prosecutors said Yang became obsessed with Gayle upon meeting him at a party celebrating the 20th anniversary of Super Bowl XX in 2005 and soon became Gayle’s real estate agent and an occasional sex partner.
Prosecutors said Yang decided to kill Reuter when learning that Reuter was pregnant with Gayle’s child.
Jurors found that Yang had committed the murder in a “cold and calculated” fashion. Yang, a former real estate agent, was sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility of parole.
But now, Yang’s new lawyer, Jed Stone, is using a wiretap before Yang’s conviction to build his argument that she did not kill Reuter.
In one recording, Yang is heard saying, “All right, we’ll start making s**t up.” Stone claims Yang did start making things up to protect her teenage son – fearing he was going to be charged with Reuter’s murder and thinking her defense attorneys would clear things up.
“He alleges misconduct by the prosecution but most importantly that the defense attorney in the case did such a big job that her rights were violated under multiple articles of the Constitution,” said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller.
The claims are laid out in a 29-page post-conviction petition filed on Tuesday. It claims that Yang is innocent of shooting the pregnant Reuter in her Deerfield home and points to new evidence – including male DNA found on unspent rounds at the scene and the misidentification of the rental car Yang supposedly used.
It also alleges Lake County prosecutors hid and failed to turn over evidence.
“Rule number one in criminal law – if you have, as a prosecutor, exculpatory evidence, if you don’t turn that over, that defendant is going to get a new trial,” Miller said.
The petition also raises new questions about ex-Bear Gayle. Gayle was questioned after Reuter’s murder, and he admitted on the witness stand at Yang’s trial that he engaged in sex with Yang the night before the murder.
But prosecutors turned all their attention on Yang, portraying her as a jealous girlfriend who wanted Reuter out of the picture.
There were wiretaps and other seemingly strong evidence presented at trial.
Kozlov spoke to Reuter’s brother, Thad, by phone. He has not seen the filing, but he has no doubts that Yang his guilty.
He said, “She’s a sociopathic narcissist. I suppose she’s trying to get out on a legality. She doesn’t want to take responsibility.”
Kozlov was not able to get in contact with Gayle Tuesday night.
Yang’s attorneys, her father and her three children are spoke Wednesday morning.
They said prosecutors withheld evidence and pressured Yang’s children.
“What the police did to my brothers and I was wrong,” said daughter Emily Yang. I know that they had a job to do, but they went way too far with us.”
“We’re going to reverse this conviction, and I think that we are on the right side of this question,” said attorney Stone.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office says officials cannot speak on pending legal matters.