CROWN POINT | A second defendant facing murder charges in the slaying of Hammond police Officer Larry Pucalik has hired private legal counsel in his defense.
James Hill, 49, of Gary, is represented by attorneys Mitchell Peters, of Merrillville, and Larry Rogers, of Valparaiso.
Hill appeared in court with his counsel Tuesday to enter a formal plea of not guilty to participating in the Nov. 14, 1980, armed robbery in which Pucalik was killed.
Two men, identified as Larry Mayes, 63, of Portage, and Pierre Catlett, 62, of Harvey, are alleged to have entered a Hammond Holiday Inn intending to rob the clerk on duty. Pucalik was killed while attempting to thwart the robbery. Hill is alleged to have driven the getaway car.
Peters issued a statement Tuesday extending sympathy to Pucalik's family but also proclaiming Hill's innocence.
"James Hill maintains, and the evidence will demonstrate, that he is innocent of these recently filed charges," Peters said, adding Hill was exonerated through post-conviction relief in a separate case indirectly related to the Pucalik slaying.
A civil lawsuit pertaining to that case remains pending in federal court, Peters said.
"It is a sad day for James Hill, and his family, that James finds himself again incarcerated, more than 30 years after the fact, for a crime he didn't commit," Peters said.
Merrillville attorney Scott King last week also proclaimed his client, Mayes, innocent of the latest charges against him.
Charged along with Hill in the armed robbery and rape in which Hill was exonerated, Mayes served 19 years before being freed based on DNA evidence. Mayes was successful in a wrongful conviction suit against Hammond police, settling the case for $4.5 million.
King is seeking a bond hearing for Mayes on the murder charge filed last month.
Meanwhile, the Cook County state's attorney's office reported Tuesday that Catlett waived extradition last week.
Patti Van Til, spokeswoman for Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, said Catlett will be extradited when the Sheriff's Department is notified of the disposition of charges filed against him in Cook County.
Catlett has been jailed in Cook County since March 3, 2010, on a charge of aggravated battery with a firearm.