Testimony in Gary Gauger's lawsuit against three former detectives he claims framed him for his parents' murders came to an abrupt halt Wednesday morning when the defendants rested their case without calling any witnesses.
The surprise move means lawyers will make closing arguments beginning Thursday morning and the case should be in the 11-member jury's hands by mid- or late-afternoon.
Gauger is suing former McHenry County Sheriff's detectives Beverly Hendle, Gene Lowery and Christopher Pandre for conspiracy and malicious prosecution, alleging they falsely reported that he confessed to the April 1993 murders, acts that led to him being convicted and sentenced to die by lethal injection.
The charges were dismissed in 1997 after two bikers were linked to the killings of Ruth and Morris Gauger through a federal investigation of the Outlaws motorcycle gang.
The detectives' attorney, James Sotos, said the defense chose not to put on any witnesses because jurors had already heard from Lowery, Hendle, Pandre and other important witnesses through the plaintiff's case.
"We think the jury has a full picture of the case," he said.
Gauger's attorneys wrapped up their case Wednesday morning by calling his wife, Sue Rekenthaler, to testify that her husband continues to suffer ill effects from his ordeal, including trouble sleeping and extreme discomfort in social situations.
The case largely will hinge on what jurors believe happened between Gauger and the three detectives during 18 hours of questioning after his parents were found with their throats slashed on the family's Richmond-area farm.
Gauger testified that he was coerced into making incriminating statements as a hypothetical, and the detectives then reported his remarks as a straight confession. The comments were not audiotaped nor videotaped, and Gauger never signed or wrote an admission.
The detectives disputed Gauger's account, saying he acted suspiciously throughout the questioning and then, about 15 hours in, gave a detailed account of killing his parents.
Gauger's attorneys have not yet given a specific amount they may be seeking through the lawsuit, though one figure tossed out was $4 million for each of the years he spent locked up before his release, or about $14 million.