Man Claims Drugs Led to Guilty Plea in Murder

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Byline: Deedra Lawhead Daily Herald Staff Writer

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Kavitt accused a Hoffman Estates man Thursday of scheming to get his guilty plea to a 1992 murder thrown out.

Kavitt refused to give Pablo Estrada a new trial because Estrada was on psychotropic drugs when he pleaded guilty in 1993 to murdering his live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lange.

Estrada's attorney, Barry Gross, argued the 50-year-old former air conditioner salesman should have been given a hearing to assess whether the drugs affected his mind before Estrada was allowed to enter the guilty plea.

But Kavitt said testimony by Estrada's former defense attorney, Michael Norris, appears to show Estrada had concocted plans to immediately challenge his plea.

Norris testified that Estrada told him later on the day he pleaded guilty - Oct. 26, 1993 - that he wanted to have the plea thrown out. Estrada was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder.

"Mr. Estrada has been very manipulative with his attorneys and with the court system," Kavitt said. "There could have been a scheme, a design by him ... to take this plea and try to get it vacated. I don't appreciate that."

Gross would not comment on the judge's ruling. Estrada plans to appeal, Gross said.

Estrada was convicted of stabbing Lange, 42, about seven times with a kitchen knife during an argument. Lange's daughter, then 12, was wounded when she tried to intervene. …