Voices, Dollars Aiding DuPage's Accused Sympathy for High- Profile Defendants 'New Phenomenon'
Gutowski, Christy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
They stand accused of unspeakable evil.
Yet, law-abiding residents across DuPage County are offering them help.
Most have never met the accused. Yet, they raise money, hire skilled defense lawyers, organize vigils, set up Web sites and even open their home to the defendants.
In recent weeks, support groups have sprouted for a handful of defendants accused of murderous plots in DuPage County.
Some of the crusaders simply oppose the death penalty, which the defendants could face if convicted. Others identify with the defendants - suburban women with no criminal history facing divorce and depression.
And there are those driven by their lack of faith in a criminal justice system that, they say, too often wrongly accuses innocent people.
Whatever their reason, an unlikely new group has emerged to play a supporting role in local courtrooms - the advocate.
"It's a relatively new phenomenon," said longtime defense attorney Richard Kling. "Certainly you'll get community groups coming to court once in a while, but I've never seen anything like what's occurring in DuPage before."
Taking a page from anti-drunken-driving groups such as MADD and AAIM, the grassroots advocates hope to elicit change for their causes - Chun Anderson, Mazna Baraz, Raul Ceja and Marilyn Lemak.
And they are going about their crusades in very public fashions.
When Anderson walked out of jail last month, she had a wealth of support surrounding her.
Dozens of Korean Americans raised her $50,000 bail, hired private defense attorneys and offered her a place to live.
Anderson, 37, is charged with the attempted murder of her 10- year-old daughter in Naperville last July. She also tried to commit suicide, police say. Both survived.
Her supporters maintain Anderson's isolation in a foreign country while dealing with a crumbling marriage led to the acts.
"We truly understand the pain and isolation she went through," said supporter Faye Choo of Niles. "The difficulty of married life in another country where you have no family or friends finally led her to try to commit suicide."
Like Anderson, Marilyn Lemak's backers don't deny the heinous crimes in which the Naperville woman stands accused. But they empathize with the 42-year-old nurse charged with killing her three children.
Defense lawyers maintain divorce and mental problems triggered Lemak's actions. Prosecutors are seeking her execution.
Her supporters say Lemak belongs in a mental hospital, not a prison cell. Churches, including St. Margaret Mary in Naperville, have gotten involved because of the Catholic stance against the death penalty.
"It put a human face on the issue," said Tom Cordaro, national council chairman of Pax Christi USA and the church's justice and outreach minister. "And it was a face in our own neighborhood. It woke us up."
Pax Christi also is behind Raul Ceja, a 23-year-old Melrose Park man, who last month was sentenced to be executed for shooting and killing two people in Elmhurst.
The group is holding a one-hour vigil for Ceja at 8 a.m. Wednesday outside the courthouse in Wheaton. …