More than eight years after he first accused three former McHenry County Sheriff's detectives of conspiring to wrongfully convict him for his parents' murders, pardoned death-row inmate Gary Gauger finally knows when he will get to make that case in court.
A McHenry County judge this week scheduled a May 11, 2009, trial for Gauger's civil lawsuit accusing the law enforcement officers of coercing him into a false confession to the 1993 murders on the family's Richmond-area farm.
That confession was a key piece of evidence when a McHenry County jury convicted Gauger of the slayings in 1994 and a judge sentenced him to death. A federal probe later linked a pair of motorcycle gang members to the killings of Morris Gauger, 74, and his wife Ruth, 70, leading to Gauger's release from prison and eventual pardon by former Gov. George Ryan.
Gauger initially sued in federal court in 2000, only to see the case dismissed two years later. He then re-filed the lawsuit five years ago in McHenry County Circuit Court, seeking undisclosed damages of more than $50,000 from former detectives Beverly Hendle, Gene Lowery and Christopher Pandre.
Lawyers in the case cleared one of the final hurdles holding up the trial this week when they agreed to allow jurors deciding the case to hear testimony about Gauger's pardon, but barred claims that Ryan's decision is proof of innocence.