We are raising money to complete the post-conviction investigation to support his actual innocence claim. Featured on iHeartRadio’s podcast Murder in Illinois, Investigating Innocence needs your support to free Chris.
Help us Free Chris Vaughn
Investigating Innocence was founded in 2013 with a continuing legal education program called Side Effects: Homicidal and Suicidal Behavior Influenced by Prescription Medications, at Chicago Kent College of Law, which focused on the Joliet, Illinois case of Christopher Vaughn, the subject of iHeartRadio's podcast Murder in Illinois.
Wrongfully accused of killing his family in 2007, Vaughn was facing the death penalty.
He was tried and convicted in 2012, the year after the abolition of the death penalty, which stripped Vaughn of a fund that was enacted by lawmakers in 2000, one of the reforms designed to protect an innocent person facing the death penalty, after the Governor of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions that year.
He was arrested, even after the CSI for the Illinois State Police determined that the forensic evidence supported a murder-suicide committed by Vaughn’s wife. She had been taking prescription medications to treat stress-induced migraine headaches. Over a year after Vaughn was arrested, the FDA recommended a black-box warning for one of the medications she was taking, Topamax, in December of 2008, after clinical data and the FDA Adverse Events data base indicated an increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior in persons taking the prescription medication.
“His wife had a single gunshot wound below her chin,” said Bill Clutter, a private investigator who founded Investigating Innocence. “Every expert who has reviewed that evidence finds it consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound", said Clutter.
Probable cause to arrest Vaughn cited the fact that his story failed to account for a large transfer stain of his wife’s blood, that occurred when he turned back to look at his three children, seated in the back seat, who were each shot twice.
An expert was prepared to explain how some people experience dissociative amnesia after witnessing a traumatic event like that, but the judge prevented that expert from testifying. None of the experts who were prepared to explain the suicidal side effects of the medications were allowed to testify, based on the rulings of the presiding judge.
CSI Robert Deel attended only one major case review meeting. This was on Friday June 15, 2007, one day after the deaths of Vaughn’s family. However, Deel was not invited to participate in any subsequent major case review meetings after that meeting, where he disputed the theory that Christopher Vaughn killed his family.
". . . every time that I offered up something that was contrary to what they said, they had some reason why I didn't know what I was talking about. . . every time I would come up with something that the evidence would (p.98) suggest or support or you would be able to at least follow the evidence to come to a logical conclusion, basically I was just given some other crazy way that this could have occurred or they would change their theory of what happened to try to match the evidence rather than letting the evidence dictate to you the events that occurred" (Deposition of Robert Deel, p.99).
Tunnel vision, which Deel described in his deposition, occurred despite the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment, which released its report five years before Christopher Vaughn was indicted on capital murder charges:
"…in any investigation, the danger exists that rather than keeping an open objective mind during the investigatory phase, one may leap to a conclusion that a person who is a suspect is in fact the guilty party. Once that conclusion is made, investigative efforts often center on marshalling facts and assembling evidence which will convict that suspect, rather than continuing with the objective investigation of other possible suspects. . . it is extraordinarily important that law enforcement agencies avoid “tunnel vision”" (Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment, April 2002, State of Illinois p. 20).
A week later, another major case review was conducted at the ISP crime lab in Joliet, on Friday June 22, 2007, with State’s Attorney James Glasgow and ASA John Connor participating. A decision was made to issue an arrest warrant for Christopher Vaughn, who was taken into custody the next morning in St. Charles, Missouri, as the family was preparing for the funerals of his wife and three children.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO CONTINUE TO WORK TO FREE CHRIS VAUGHN
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