BLOOMINGTON — Extended media coverage will be allowed in the jury trial of a Bloomington woman accused of aggravated drunken driving in the death of a 21-year-old woman in downtown Bloomington.

Associate Judge Casey Costigan ruled Thursday that the media may photograph and record Katie Lawson’s trial when it begins next week in the June 24, 2012, death of Lauren Leffler of Bloomington.

The judge approved a request by Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve to exclude five state witnesses from the coverage but denied a motion from defense lawyer Jane Foster to bar extended coverage of the entire proceeding.

Lawson is charged with aggravated driving under the influence in an accident that caused a death, driving on a suspended license, failure to report an accident, driving an uninsured vehicle and failure to reduce speed.

With permission from the judge handling a case, extended media coverage is allowed under a pilot program approved in January 2012 by the Illinois Supreme Court. McLean County courts have participated in the program since January 2013 when the Supreme Court granted a request by the 11th Judicial Circuit to allow extended media coverage.

In his arguments to exclude 11 witnesses, Horve said the people involved in the case expressed hesitation about being photographed because of their jobs or sensitive connections to the case. The judge allowed five exemptions.

Foster argued that media coverage of the downtown Bloomington bar scene, including another recent fatal drunken driving case and the DUI issued Sunday to a Bloomington police officer, could prejudice the jury. Lawson is accused of hitting Leffler as the victim crossed the street at the corner of Main and Washington Streets.

The coverage of the weekend alcohol-related incidents creates “almost a perfect storm where it’s next to impossible for my client to get a fair trial,” said Foster.

In his ruling, Costigan said questioning during the jury selection process should determine the level of prior knowledge would-be jurors have about the case and downtown bar issues.

Costigan noted that no problems have occurred this year with extended media coverage approved in several other McLean County cases. The Supreme Court’s goal for the pilot program is “to open the doors to the courts” while improving transparency and accountability, said the judge.

(16) comments

Michelle23
Michelle23

Excellent. The more evidence the better to hopefully put this garbage in prison for a long time.

Nickit
Nickit

Agreed!

Garth Bock
Garth Bock

Michelle, Nickit....she is not garbage. She is a young person who made a huge mistake. Hopefully, this whole incidence can be used as a wake up call to other young people in our community. It did wake up the city and hopefully the downtown bar scene can be improved some day. What would be more constructive is to be in thought and prayer for this young lady and hope that others would learn from this tragedy.

Oh by the way...do you know who Katie Lawson is ???? Just wanted to be sure you had a good reason to call her "garbage"....she is the daughter of Wally Barker of Wally's Collision who passed away from an accident at home. He was very well like and respected in this community.

felliott89
felliott89

i'm unclear why it matters if her father was well liked an respected member or the community, as she certainly has done nothing to have those adjectives attributed to her. she fled the scene not only of an accident, but one that involved hitting a PEDESTRIAN and KILLING her.

the important question here is: do you have any idea who Lauren was? she was smart, loved, caring, and had a promising life ahead of her.

Michelle23
Michelle23

LOL! Who cares who she is! She made the choice to drink, drive, get behind the wheel and she KILLED an innocent girl. Because she didn't feel like walking a few blocks to her house. Senless. No excuse. Tragic
Garbage.

BloomingtonGirl123
BloomingtonGirl123

I think its funny how your quick to call her garbage! I know this girl and her family for a very long time and shes far from garbage! That could of happened to anybody it was an ACCIDENT! You are ridiculous if you think she was the only one downtown driving drunk! There are soo many young people leaving downtown driving after the bars have closed! I pray that your kids (if you have any) never make a mistake like this.. so they dont have to deal with people like you calling them garbage when you dont even know them!

Michelle23
Michelle23

If people would stop defending drunk drivers/ drunk drivers who kill then there would be a lot less of them. But of coarse until harsher laws/penalties are passed the deaths and destruction will continue.

230Red
230Red

You have a right to your opinion, however, you should refrain from calling Katie names if you don't know her. Katie is a very sweet, loving young lady, who would do anything for anyone. Yes, she made a mistake, one that she will regret and will be with her for the rest of her life. I pray you never have a family member make a mistake and end up in the public eye. Katie is about to pay for this with a big chunk of her life, not to mention the guilt and torment she has been living with since the accident happened and as long as she lives. As long as alcohol is a legal, people drinking and driving will continue. Instead of beating down on Katie and calling her names, why don't you focus your energy on the root cause. I know Katie very well, she is my niece.

Make a change
Make a change

I don't know Katie at all. I know nothing about her except this case. 230Red, I get it. she's your niece. It's your place to defend her, but don't say this is a problem because alcohol is legal. Lots of people drink. Lots of people choose to get home safely and legally. The problem occurred when she decided not to spend $10 on a cab ride home, but drive, totally intoxicated instead. It's more than a little mistake. I'm sure if you were Laura's Aunt, instead of Katie's, you'd have a VERY different opinion of the situation. She made a decision to do something stupid, illegal and dangerous. That decision lead to her killing another young girl who had her whole life ahead of her. She deserves to lose a large portion of her life locked up for it. She's still way better off than Laura, who was probably just trying to get home safely and legally.

felliott89
felliott89

she would do anything for anyone, but couldn't stop to see if a pedestrian she hit was okay? something doesn't seem quite right here...i understand being terrified, but come on...

Thomas W
Thomas W

Michelle23 is a joes's employee

Michelle23
Michelle23

OK, I fess...I'm not an employee of Joes but I must ask ( kind of know) so humor me please...Why would you ask as there is no revelence what's so ever. Is this your mentality? I have ZERO tolerance for people who drink, drive and kill people. Sickens me that there are people who do.

Toms3gal
Toms3gal

People in glass houses....my guess is that at some point you or someone in your family has either done something or will do something that is a huge mistake. I wonder how you would feel on the receiving end of your name-calling. I don't know either party or relatives, but today I choose to focus on the positive. Maybe you could lobby for stricter laws, help someone who has been hurt by a drunk driver, help someone who has chosen not to drink anymore learn positive life skills, and the list could go on. Much better to focus on the positive than to waste time and energy ranting about how awful someone else behaves. Face it, people don't always act how we want them to act. We can choose to beat them down or build them up. Usually people who degrade others do it to make themselves look better. I apologize for even commenting this, other than to say that for some reason I just felt compelled. I hope you find some sort of positives in your life on which to focus your energy.

Michelle23
Michelle23

My focus is right where it needs to be. No mercy for drunk driving killers. At least I don't apologize for saying how I feel. I pray this piece of gaaaarrrbage has a nice long jail sentence. Still wouldnt be long enough.

Stating_my_opinion
Stating_my_opinion

So what if she was?? What difference does that make??

Michelle23
Michelle23

OK how did you know? Like seriously! And that was a compliment, right? Right.


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