Lemak Won't Face Death Prosecutor Reportedly Changes Mind about Capital Punishment in Case

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Byline: Christy Gutowski Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Marilyn Lemak will spend the rest of her life behind bars - but she won't die - for killing her three small children nearly three years ago in Naperville.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett would not comment publicly about his decision late Monday, but those close to the triple murder case confirmed he will not seek capital punishment against the former surgical nurse.

Birkett is expected to announce his decision Wednesday during a highly anticipated press conference. With the death penalty off the table, Lemak faces a mandatory life in prison if her appeals to a higher court fail.

A jury deliberated for nine hours over two days in December before finding Lemak, 44, was sane on that snowy day in March 1999 when she sedated and suffocated Nicholas, 7, Emily, 6, and 3-year- old Thomas. The panel rejected alternate verdicts of guilty but mentally ill or not guilty by reason of insanity.

From the onset, Birkett had planned to seek the death penalty if a jury convicted Lemak. In fact, he became the first prosecutor in February 2000 to push for the death penalty just days after Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on capital punishment. At the time, Birkett cited the horrific nature of a crime involving the deaths of three innocent children.

His decision galvanized anti-death penalty groups and local religious organizations, who held public vigils, blanketed Birkett with more than 1,000 post cards and, most recently, asked Pope John Paul II to intervene. …