Homicide retrial likely avoided

Case leaning toward plea agreement

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Dec. 19, 2006, 11:38 a.m.)

It's increasingly possible that Carol L. LaPorte's homicide case will end in a plea agreement before going in front of a jury for a retrial, both attorneys said Tuesday.

The scheduled two-week-long jury trial was taken off of Judge Michael Gibbs' calendar. A plea will likely come at a Jan. 12 hearing.

LaPorte, 36, stabbed and killed her husband, Anthony, in September 2003 inside the couple's Williams Bay condominium. She says the stabbing occurred in self-defense when Anthony attacked her when the two returned home from a night of drinking.

District Attorney Phil Koss charged LaPorte with charges of first-degree reckless homicide and aggravated battery.

The possible plea agreement is coming at the request of both families - Carol's and Anthony's - so they can return to some sense of normal life, both Koss and defense attorney Jerome Buting said. The couple has two young daughters, ages 6 and 3.

"The overriding factor that's working on both sides to try and resolve it is trying to do something that can bring normalcy to the children's lives and do what's best for these two young children," Buting said.

"I think it's the desire of the two families to try and get along for the sake of the children of the defendant and the victim," Koss said.

Neither attorney would comment on aspects of what the plea might entail.

Judge Michael Gibbs sentenced Carol LaPorte to 10 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of both felony charges.

He later overturned the jury's verdict by upholding an appellate motion that LaPorte's first attorney, Tom Brown, was ineffective because he failed to have key witnesses testify to rebut state testimony.

Koss said the possibility of a settlement is not an evidentiary issue and that he felt confident going forward with a retrial, if it were desired by Anthony's family.

LaPorte, released from custody in October after nearly a year-and-a-half in prison, has been living as normal a life as possible at her sister's home in the Chicago area, Buting said.

She is not working, but is able to spend time with her daughters, who are in her sister's custody, Buting said. LaPorte had previously worked as a chiropractor and still maintains her license in Illinois.

"I don't know if you can say it's normal," Buting said. "She is not gone back to work and is living with the uncertainty of the future."

Moving back to normal will be a long journey for both families.

The LaPortes are moving in that direction with the desire to avoid a retrial and accept a plea, Koss said.

"Whether they can move toward that depends on what happens in the future, but I think they are hoping to take a step toward healing the family," Koss said. "I think they are trying to take that step now."

Buting said Carol LaPorte has asked for forgiveness numerous times and is making strides toward repairing the damage that was caused on one drunken night more than three years ago.

Buting doesn't expect Anthony's family to offer immediate forgiveness for the loss of his life, "but where there's a will, there's a way if they are willing to work at healing and forgiveness."

"It's been terrible loss for (Carol), too," Buting added. "Sometimes people forget that. Despite the difficulties they had in their marriage, the marriage to Tony was very important to her. She loved him and she has always felt terrible for what happened."

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