Isom murder trial starts Monday, more than 5 years after alleged crime
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent January 5, 2013 6:14PM
Kevin Isom. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:37AM
Opening statements in the capital murder case of a Gary man charged with killing his wife and two stepchildren are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Monday.
Defendant Kevin Charles Isom, who turned 47 on Friday, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the shooting deaths of his wife, Cassandra Isom, 40, and his stepchildren, Michael Moore, 16, and Ci’Andria Cole, 13. Isom also has pleaded not guilty to four counts of attempted murder involving Gary police officers who responded to gunfire on Aug. 6, 2007, at the family’s apartment in the Lake Shore Dunes complex in the Miller section.
The trial in the 2007 triple homicide will be heard by 12 regular jurors and five alternates, who will be sequestered in a local hotel for an anticipated four or five weeks. During the trial, jurors will not have access to phones, computers, television or other electronic devices to ensure they learn of the case only from what evidence is presented in the courtroom.
Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. recently imposed a gag order, which prohibits attorneys, law enforcement officials, court security officers and others involved in the case from making public statements outside the courtroom. The order follows an erroneous story in a local newspaper regarding jury selection.
Isom’s first trial ended in mistrial in March after there were an insufficient number of jurors from which to select the panel. Like before, potential jurors completed a voluminous questionnaire in which they were asked to disclose their views on the judicial system, the death penalty and other topics and to make the court aware of any conflicts that could prevent them from serving. Jurors who were not excused because of health, work or family hardships then were questioned individually by deputy prosecutors David Urbanski and Michelle Jatkiewicz and veteran public defenders Herbert Shaps and Casey McCloskey.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter filed the death penalty request in January 2008, and the case has been set for trial several times. Isom’s private attorney, Nick Thiros, died in October 2010, and attorneys in Thiros’ office continued representing Isom until they withdrew from the case. The judge appointed the public defender’s office to represent Isom about two months later.
If jurors convict Isom of the three counts of murder, the trial will move into a second phase in which prosecutors must prove an aggravating circumstance — that Isom committed multiple murders. His defense team is expected to present mitigation evidence relating to Isom’s education, family life, health and other areas.
Jurors then will have the sentencing option of death, life without parole or a term of years. If they choose the latter, Stefaniak will determine the length of the sentence. Murder is punishable by 45 to 65 years. Each attempted murder charge is punishable by 20 to 50 years. When there are multiple victims, the four felony division judges typically impose consecutive sentences.