Donald Whalen appears Nov. 27, 2018, in a McLean County Law and Justice Center courtroom in Bloomington. A hearing to determine if Whalen should get a new trial begins Monday.

BLOOMINGTON — After nearly 30 years in prison, Donald Whalen will present his case for a new trial Monday in the 1991 slaying of his father in a showdown that will bring former police officers and a man once considered a suspect in the murder to the witness stand.

Whalen, now 52, will be represented by Elliot Slosar, who is with the University of Chicago’s Innocence Project. Handling the state’s side of the post-conviction arguments will be Assistant State’s Attorneys David Rossi and Trevor Sierra.

The two-day hearing is expected to open with testimony from Whalen's mother Colleen Whalen, who supports her son’s efforts to have his murder conviction reversed.

The defense also plans to call Robert McElvaney to testify about a disagreement he had with the victim — Whalen's father, Bill — that led to his being ejected from the bar hours before the elder Whalen's badly beaten body was found by an employee of the former Twenty Grand Tap downtown.

A judge barred jurors from hearing information about Bloomington police contact with McElvaney during Donald Whalen’s trial. At a pre-trial hearing, McElvaney testified that he was a regular patron at the bar and it was not unusual for him to be asked to leave. According to police testimony at the pre-trial hearing, McElvaney told officers, “I wouldn’t hurt Bill Whalen. Bill Whalen is my buddy. What did I do?”

In the 1994 decision confirming Whalen’s conviction, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled “the link between McElvaney and the offense was speculative at best.” Slosar has argued that exclusion of the information about another potential suspect denied Donald Whalen a fair trial.

Former Bloomington police chief Randy McKinley, a detective at the time of the Whalen investigation, has been summoned to testify about his contacts with Illinois State Police crime lab staff who reviewed a bloody palm print found on a pool cue near the victim. The print was key evidence against Donald Whalen.

Retired crime lab scientist John Dierker is expected to be questioned about alleged discrepancies between his lab notes and an opinion he offered at Whalen’s trial that no one other than the defendant could have left the palm print.

Defense experts Michele Triplett and Karl Reich will testify about the palm print and DNA testing performed on the knife police believe was the murder weapon.

The state has disclosed that it also will call former Bloomington police detective Charlie Crowe and a lab scientist as witnesses.

This story will be updated.

Photos: 2018-19 McLean County jail mugshots


Load comments