End of Lemak Trial Should Draw a Large Crowd

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Byline: Christy Gutowski

Good luck to those hoping to watch the waning moments of the Lemak trial.

Closing arguments begin Tuesday and court personnel already are worrying about lack of space. In an effort to keep the crowds low, officials have postponed most high school field trips to the courthouse Tuesday and warned reporters about arriving early enough to secure a seat.

The top lawyers in the case - defense attorney Jack Donahue and DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett - are expected to handle the summations. Other lawyers on the case include defense attorney Joseph Bugos and prosecutors Jane Radostits and Joseph Ruggiero.

The closings will be critically important, helping jurors decide which portrait of Marilyn Lemak, mentally-ill mom or bitter wife, best describes the 44-year-old Naperville mother.

For those living in a cave, authorities accuse Lemak of drugging and suffocating her three children - 7-year-old Nicholas, 6-year- old Emily and 3-year-old Thomas - to punish her then-estranged husband for dating another woman.

If convicted, prosecutors will ask DuPage Circuit Court Judge George Bakalis to sentence her to death.

Testimony in the much-publicized case ended Friday after three weeks of evidence. Jurors appeared to grow antsy toward day's end, with a few rolling their eyes when an expert talked too long or attorneys repeated a question already asked.

Before they left, Bakalis told them to bring an overnight bag in case they did not reach a verdict Tuesday. In private, sources say jurors have given an icy reception to the possibility of being sequestered in a hotel several days before Christmas.

"Don't even think about the case over the weekend," Bakalis told them. "Use the weekend to relax."

The jurors - whether thinking about the lengthy shopping lists or eight-straight days of medical testimony - laughed.

Class Act: One of the most heart-tugging aspects of the Lemak case is the cordial relationship between David Lemak's family and his former in-laws.

The two sides, though divided on what caused Marilyn to smother her children, regularly exchange pleasantries and engage in small talk. David even settled his bitter financial fight with Marilyn so her parents would not exhaust their retirement savings to pay for her defense.

As such, it seemed perplexing last week when an expert testified Marilyn's parents, William and Carol Morrissey, had considered David a bad father. The normally stoic William Morrissey became visibly upset in the courtroom and immediately approached David Lemak during the next break.

"Dave, I never said that about you," Morrissey said, placing a hand on his former son-in-law's back. "I never thought that."

Lemak offered a sad smile in return.

"It's OK," David Lemak said. "I know."

Judicial intentions: Illinois Attorney General candidate Joe Birkett isn't the only Lemak prosecutor running for higher office.

Assistant state's attorney Jane Radostits - Birkett's deputy chief of criminal investigations - filed her nominating petitions for the 3rd Appellate Court Monday.

She is seeking the seat being vacated by Judge Peg Breslin, who was elected to the post 11 years ago and was the first woman outside Cook County elected to Illinois appellate court. …