Before convicting him of murder three years ago, a Cook County judge heard how Wayne Weinke — following an inheritance dispute — picked his mother up and threw her over a bannister down a flight of stairs before turning off the light and walking away.
“I love you,” Gloria Weinke said as she looked up from the bottom of the steps.
“You hate me,” said her son.
A security guard at her retirement home in Arlington Heights found her 14 hours later and Weinke, 77, was able to provide videotaped testimony from her hospital bed in 2006.
She died three months later. But her account lead a judge to find her son guilty in a 2013 bench trial. Months later he received a 40-year prison sentence.
But this week, an appeals court, citing errors in how the testimony was handled, tossed out the conviction and granted Weinke, 60, a new trial.
“I was stunned,” said Gail Deadwyler, Gloria Weinke’s daughter.
“I know he murdered my mother. He knows he murdered my mother. My mother knows he murdered my mother. And God knows he murdered my mother,” said Deadwyler, 62, who lives in a northwest suburb.
The 1st District Appellate Court determined the original decision to allow the videotaped testimony was made under the belief that Gloria Weinke was in grave condition and might die.
But Karen Crothers, the Cook County assistant state’s attorney who presented dire medical information to the court in order to push a sense of urgency, failed to back the information up with actual documentation, such as medical records or a doctor’s testimony, the ruling stated.
In fact, much of the medical information Crothers provided about Gloria Weinke’s condition was “false, misleading or both,” the ruling stated, noting that Crothers told the court that prosecutors had spoken to doctors about her condition, only to admit later they had not actually spoken with doctors, but to a detective and an unnamed hospital nurse.
The ruling also takes to task Cook County Judge Kay Hanlon in a pre-trial matter for hastily allowing the videotaped testimony without allowing the defense an adequate chance for cross-examination, as well as trial Judge William G. Lacy, who denied a defense motion to review the accuracy of Crothers’ statements and admitted the testimony into trial.
Wayne Weinke’s attorney, Jed Stone, said he’s hopeful the case will return to the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California this summer, at which point he plans to seek a bond hearing for his client to be released from custody.
“Wayne Weinke did not lift his mother over a railing and drop her down a flight of stairs,” said Stone, who said that Gloria Weinke was suffering from dementia when she accidentally fell down the stairs and that metastasized cancer killed her, not the fall.
Wayne Weinke, who hails from Park Ridge and claims he was not even present when his mom fell, continues to have the support of his wife and two children, Stone said.
Judges Hanlon and Lacy could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said the office will seek a rehearing on the issue and noted the court focused on a procedural error and did not characterize the evidence in the case as weak.
“While we have no desire to impugn the (assistant state’s attorney’s) reputation, given the power and autonomy that prosecutors have over a criminal defendant’s fate, we cannot ignore what happened. Conduct of this sort is incompatible with the truth-seeking process and harms the integrity of the criminal justice system,” the appellate ruling states.