Melissa Calusinski pleads for new trial at hearing

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Melissa Calusinki is seeking a new trial at a hearing Friday on charges of killing a child at a Lake County day care center.

Calusinski's family said she may be one step closer to getting the justice she deserves at the hearing to determine if the murder conviction for the slaying of 16-month-old toddler Benjamin Kingan will be overturned.

The 29-year old confessed to slamming Benjamin's head to the ground while working at the Lincolnshire center in 2009. Her lawyers said she was coerced.

"Right now, it is just being happy for my daughter that the truth is coming out and that soon, very soon, if the judge does the right thing, which I think Judge Shanes will, that my daughter will be out," said Paul Calusinski.

The last of three evidentiary hearings began Friday morning five years after a jury found the Carpentersville woman guilty.

Calusinski appeared in front of the same Lake County judge who sentenced her to 31 years in prison after her lawyers said they have new evidence that will clear her of the crime.

Her father said he also got an anonymous phone call telling him to take another look at X-ray evidence.

During Friday's proceedings, defense attorney Kathleen Zellner called a private software developer who testified that the X-rays provided to the defense were virtually useless because of their lack of clarity.

"Those images were altered significantly. First, the image was what I call obfuscated, even though it was objected to, which means that they're altering the image to make it so you can't see what it is. You can't see that it," said Jeff Mueller, an expert for the defense.

But prosecutors fired back, saying the X-rays aren't new, just digitally enhanced versions of prior evidence.

They said even if an initial autopsy of the child missed proof of a prior injury, Calusinski still caused the boy's death.

That admission led embattled Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd to reclassify the death from a homicide to undetermined.

"The question is why were they not able to get any images from that disk when we were able to get images in 2015 from that disk," said Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd.

It is not clear of the judge will rule Friday.
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