Cop Can't Remember Taking Missing Pic in Coma Beating Case
A Mokena police detective now says he can't recall whether he photographed the hands of a New Lenox man charged with punching a Joliet man into a coma.
The trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching a Joliet man into a coma during a bar fight ground to a halt when a Mokena Detective said he had shot a photo of the defendant's hand that no one can seem to find.
Will County Judge Sarah Jones gave the Mokena police 11 days to come up with the missing picture. The police couldn't find it, and attorneys for the New Lenox man, 23-year-old Joseph Messina, moved for a mistrial.
Then on Thursday, the same detective said he now can't remember whether he shot the photo after all.
"No, I do not recall," Detective Greg Selin said during a hearing in Will County court.
Defense attorney Ken Zelazo asked Selin if he talked about the Messina matter with prosecutors. Selin told him he did, but just discussed "my concerns that I was nervous about this case."
Zelazo then raised the possibility of impeaching Selin's credibility and Judge Jones bristled.
"You better be damn sure you can back that up," Jones said.
Zelazo also showed a video of Selin taking pictures of Messina while in the Mokena Police Department squad room. Selin's back is to the camera and it could not be determined if he also took pictures of Messina's hands.
Zelazo and Selin agreed that the tape seemed to be missing at least 30 seconds total from two separate sections.
Zelazo and co-counsel Dave Carlson contend the photo Selin previously said he took of Messina's hand is missing. Zelazo asked prosecutors to provide the originals—either original prints or digital images—of what photos they do have.
The case will be revisited Monday.
Messina allegedly knocked 29-year-old Eric Bartels of Joliet to the ground with a single punch outside the Mokena bar 191 South in July 2009. Bartels has been in a coma since.
After Bartels fell, a witness testified previously, Messina straddled him, punched his face again, then "raised his arms above his head in victory."
The police arrived quickly and found Messina hiding between the seats of a van, witnesses said.
But defense attorney Carlson insists Messina didn't throw the punch that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. In fact, Carlson said, Messina didn't punch anyone at all. The attorney said it was actually one of Messina's close friends who struck Bartels.