Lawyers for former NU professor want to block video message from murder trial
Police have said Wyndham Lathem sent messages to friends and family apologizing for “biggest mistake” of his life while on the lam amid murder manhunt.
Lawyers for former Northwestern University professor Wyndham Lathem want to bar Cook County prosecutors from using a video message the microbiologist allegedly sent his parents while he was on the run from police following his boyfriend’s murder.
Lathem was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after the body of 26-year-old Trenton Cornell-Duranleau was discovered inside Lathem’s blood-spattered River North apartment in 2017. While on the lam with co-defendant Andrew Warren, police said Lathem sent video messages apologizing to relatives for the “biggest mistake of his life.”
Lathem’s lawyers Wednesday filed a motion to bar prosecutors from using video footage from those messages that was turned over to U.S. Marshals by Lathem’s parents days before Lathem and Warren surrendered in the Bay Area. While on the run, they made stops at a Boystown health clinic and a Lake Geneva library branch, where the pair made cash donations in Cornell-Duranleau’s name.
Lathem’s parents, who have since died, hired a lawyer based in their Connecticut hometown to represent their son, and that attorney turned over the tape to Marshals without demanding a warrant, argued Lathem’s current attorneys, the father-son duo of Barry and Adam Sheppard. Citing rules of professional conduct for Illinois attorneys, the Sheppards argue that their predecessor violated client confidentiality by turning over the video to investigators.
Judge Charles Burns set a Jan. 20 date for arguments on the motion.
The motion does not detail what was said on the video, but police in 2017 said that it contained an apology and raised concerns about whether Lathem and Warren intended to turn themselves in peacefully.
Prosecutors have alleged Warren and Lathem brutally stabbed Cornell-Duranleau to death as part of a plot to commit a joint murder-suicide the two had planned during a lengthy exchange of messages over the Internet. Warren, a British citizen who had flown to Chicago the day before the murder on his first trans-Atlantic voyage, has pleaded guilty to charges and is expected to testify against Lathem, 45.
Lathem, who was fired by Northwestern after his arrest, had been an associate professor of microbiology and was one of the world’s leading experts on plague pathogens.