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Austin's dad frustrated with trial

Austin's dad frustrated with trial

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BLOOMINGTON - The father of one of three children who drowned in Clinton Lake is frustrated by how the Maurice LaGrone Jr. murder trial is proceeding and by what he said is an attitude change among relatives of co-defendant Amanda Hamm.

"It upsets me a lot that the jury doesn't get to hear a lot of things because the judge has to rule on certain things," said Craig Brown, father of Austin Brown, the 3-year-old boy who drowned Sept. 2, 2003, as a car sank in Clinton Lake.

Brown said he thinks the jury should have heard more about Amanda Hamm, who has yet to be tried on the same murder charges in the death of her three children.

DeWitt County Judge Stephen Peters ruled that statements Hamm made to doctors and a social worker while she was a patient at St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur would not be admissible. Hamm was a psychiatric patient after she disclosed plans to commit suicide.

Information that LaGrone had an infant son who died of sudden infant death syndrome also should have been provided to the jury, said Brown.

Brown also criticized Hamm family members who testified for the defense.

He said Hamm's relatives - including Hamm's mother Ann Powers - had been critical of LaGrone previously but changed their position in the interest of helping Hamm.

"I believe she (Powers) thinks if she helps Mr. LaGrone get off, she's going to help her daughter get out of it," said Brown.

Powers told The Pantagraph Friday that she based her opinion of the LaGrone case on information she knows about the case.

"If I thought he intentionally harmed my grandkids, I would want him to be punished for it. The evidence does not support guilt," she said.

Hamm's mother also commented on changes in her attitude toward her daughter and LaGrone. When she was interviewed shortly after criminal charges were filed in December 2003, Powers said she believed her daughter and LaGrone should be held accountable for their actions.

"Emotions were running high. It was questionable at the beginning as to what happened," said Powers.

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