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Columnist
No new trial for Buchanan
By Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/29/2010 12:01 AM

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The 2nd District Appellate Court has upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence of former Zion resident James Buchanan.

Buchanan, now 40, was found guilty of stabbing his 47-year-old estranged wife, Wilma Buchanan, 21 times as police stood outside the door where Buchanan had taken his wife hostage.

Lake County Associate Judge George Bridges called Buchanan "the poster boy for orders of protection" when sentencing him for the Oct. 2, 2002, attack.

During their almost nine years of marriage, Wilma Buchanan had filed 10 orders of protection against her husband, and two other women had combined for three more.

Buchanan argued on appeal that he should be given a new trial because his attorney gave him incomplete and misleading information regarding his right to testify.

He claimed he did not testify because he had been told that if he did and was convicted, he might receive a greater sentence and hurt his chances on appeal.

But the Appellate Court ruled that the facts that Buchanan was known to be the only person in the room with his wife when the standoff began, that he had told numerous people he intended to kill her, and that he was the only person alive in the room when police entered outweighed whatever effect Buchanan's side of the story may have had on the jury.

"An attorney's honest assessment of a case, when made based on his or her professional experience, cannot be considered misleading," the justices wrote. "Not every case is a winner; some are hopeless causes, and attorneys are regularly called upon to assess the strength of cases."

Fee increasing

The document storage fee assessed at the filing of all civil cases in Lake County Circuit Court will increase Jan. 1 for the first time in 19 years.

The county board's law and judicial committee recently approved increasing the fee from $5, where it has been since it was established in 1992, to $10 effective next year.

The state legislature allows circuit clerks to collect a fee of up to $15 per case to defray the costs of storage and retrieval of court documents.

Heard in the hallway

Goodbye and best wishes to Christy Poltz, a former administrative assistant in the Lake County state's attorney's office, who has taken a position as a dispatcher for the Libertyville police department.