051717-blm-loc-3zimmerman

Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist, left, listens to Kirk Zimmerman's defense lawyer, John Rogers, dispute evidence during pretrial testimony in May 2017 in Zimmerman's murder trial at the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE PHOTO

BLOOMINGTON — A McLean County judge hit the pause button on further hearings in the Kirk Zimmerman murder case Thursday until two appeals filed by the state have been resolved.

First Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist requested the delay on any decisions on pretrial issues by Judge Scott Drazewski until the 4th District Appellate Court rules on appeals related to potential evidence in the case.

Zimmerman is charged with shooting his ex-wife Pam Zimmerman in November 2014 as she sat behind a desk at her office on Bloomington's east side.

Ghrist argued the judge may lack jurisdiction to make decisions on pending motions until the appeals of March 2017 rulings are settled.

The issue of a delay was discussed recently in a series of emails exchanged between the judge, Ghrist and defense lawyer John Rogers.

Rogers voiced strong objections to the delay, predicting that the setback could remove the potential for a trial in 2018.

"How long is Mr. Zimmerman going to be allowed to sit around and wait for his day in trial?" Rogers asked.

According to Rogers, the proceedings could continue on matters not related to the issues under review by the appellate court.

The state has appealed a ruling by Drazewski to exclude a computerized photo lineup in which a Bloomington woman said she recognized Zimmerman as the man she saw near the victim's office about the time police believe the shooting occurred. Citing improper procedures used by Bloomington police to conduct the lineup, the judge barred the evidence from a trial.

In his comments putting the hearing schedule on hold, Drazewski noted that the decison by any party to appeal an issue while a case is pending delays the matter seven to 10 months. 

The difference between the issues contained in the appeals and those in pending motions go beyond the standard apples and oranges comparison, said the judge, to a more remote fruits and vegetables category.

Still, a lack of clear guidance from other courts on the matter could put the case at risk for more postponements if it were to proceed with the appeals pending, said the judge. 

Both lawyers and the judge agreed that filing deadlines and material that are required to be exchanged will continue but no hearings will be set until the appellate court mandates are issued.

Among the issues still to be resolved are defense objections to potential testimony from a state expert on information collected from a computer in Zimmerman's car and an analysis by another state witness of the suspect's finances.

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to Rogers' request for a review of a favorable appellate ruling of a media challenge to the judge's decision to seal certain court records. The Pantagraph, WGLT and the Illinois Press Association appealed the decision to keep the information sealed until a jury is seated. 

No hearing dates have been set on the state's appeal or the Supreme Court review.

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Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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