CROWN POINT | Defense attorneys lost a lengthy battle Thursday to keep out testimony in the Isom trial alleging two cousins frantically tried to stop Isom after reports of gunfire.
The hours-long legal wrangling ran along a separate argument whether to remove a juror for unorthodox note-taking. Without much or any law on the issue, the judge used his discretion to remove the juror and seat an alternate.
Isom, 47, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted of the murders of his wife and stepchildren in 2007 in their home at the Lake Shore Dunes apartment complex in Miller.
He also faces charges of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at police officers during a standoff.
On the fourth day of trial Thursday, the testimony of one of those officers came under intense scrutiny. Defense attorneys argued the testimony included significant hearsay. Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., ultimately allowed the testimony at the continued objection of the defense.
Lt. Thomas Pawlak's testimony included recounting statements by two unidentified men during an encounter with Pawlak outside the building after Pawlak had arrived and heard gunfire.
Pawlak testified the men exited a Buick in front of the building, proceeding to wave their hands wildly, jumping up and down and yelling, "Kevin, what are you doing? Stop this (expletive)."
Pawlak said he grabbed the men and moved them behind a nearby Chevy Caprice for safety.
"I asked them who's shooting," Pawlak said. "They identified themselves as cousins of Kevin Isom."
Pawlak testified the men told him Isom's wife and children were in the apartment and his mother down the street.
Pawlak said he sent the men to get a description of Isom from his mother.
"They took off running eastbound on Hemlock," Pawlak said while he remained crouched behind the Chevy Caprice.
Pawlak also testified he was told, "I think he was depressed. He lost his job."
Both statements came under heavy fire by defense attorneys, who argued the statements were not only hearsay, but also made by two people police failed to name, include in their reports or interview during the subsequent investigation.
"How do the (speakers) have knowledge Isom was there and doing the shooting?" defense attorney Herbert Shaps asked.
Nor were the men's comments about who was in the apartment or Isom's mental state facts about the immediate situation, Shaps argued.
While saying police may have "missed an opportunity" by not pursuing, finding and questioning the two men, Stefaniak admitted the statements as "nontestimonial" and not subject to the hearsay rule.
There was no intent to cast blame, which hearsay rules are designed to prevent, he said, saying the questions were asked to figure out what was going on and defuse the situation.
In another matter, Stefaniak removed a juror in response to concerns over the man's taking detailed, color-coded notes in a three-ring binder he bought himself rather than standard spiral notebook provided by the court.
Bailiffs testified the man had asked permission and did not appear to have shared his notes, but both the defense and the prosecution sought the man's removal.
Shaps argued the note-taking may give the man an "advantage" over other jurors during deliberations, while Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Urbanski argued the note-taking may give the juror "undue influence" over other jurors.