Week 1 of Western IL Correctional Officers’ Trial Recap

By Benjamin Cox on April 4, 2022 at 1:13pm

Week Two of a trial against 2 Western Illinois Correctional Facility guards began this morning in federal court.

53 year old Todd Sheffler of Mendon and 30 year old Alex Banta of Quincy face charges of conspiracy against civil rights, deprivation of civil rights, witness tampering, destruction/alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation, and witness intimidation charges in the death of inmate Larry Earvin. Both men could face up to life imprisonment.

Earvin’s death was ruled a homicide after he died five weeks after an alleged beating took place in 2018.

Last Monday, Sheffler and Banta’s defense counsel filed a motion to have Earvin’s background information, sentencing, and parole eligibility in September 2018 removed from admission as evidence. The defense argued the information’s relevance and believed it to be unduly prejudicial. Judge Sue E. Myerscough denied that motion allowing its admission. Monday concluded with a seating of the jury and the government beginning its case in chief.

The trial continued on Tuesday with defense counsel seeking an order to prohibit the testimony of Dr. Patrick Collier, an expert witness who is a trauma surgeon. Collier was being called as an expert witness by the government to render an opinion based upon the work of neuorologist Dr. Todd D. Elmore. The defense claimed Collier’s opinion on whether or not Larry Earvin suffered a traumatic brain injury that ultimately resulted in his death doesn’t reasonably rely on anything that Dr. Elmore said. The defense also wished to suppress and redact all of the St. John’s Hospital Medical Records that rendered whether Earvin had a traumatic brain injury.

Prosecutors responded saying that the court had previously ruled in July of last year that Dr. Collier’s testimony was admissible. The court ruled that prosecutors must establish a proper foundation for including Earvin’s medical records and that Dr. Collier’s testimony was admissible to proceed, again denying the defense’s motion.

Wednesday of last week was spent dealing with juror issues. One was dismissed due to an illness, with one of the jury’s four alternates impaneled in the morning. Judge Myerscough has instructed the jury to remain masked in the courtroom, according to federal court records.

Thursday saw another juror dismissed after mask compliance issues, and that juror was held at the courthouse for possible sanctions. No other information about this incident was noted in court records. Technical issues for video testimony as well as playing of evidence were also addressed Thursday.

Friday continued with more witnesses called by the government for their case in chief. More witnesses and evidence are expected throughout ongoing hearings today.