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Peterson, Vaughn trials could overlap in Will County

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012 2:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2012 3:13 p.m. CDT

(MCT) — Prosecutors said Wednesday that they are preparing for two of Will County's biggest criminal trials in years to overlap this summer, with both Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn scheduled to face a jury in adjoining rooms at the Joliet courthouse.

Peterson, the former Bolingbrook police sergeant accused of drowning his third wife, is scheduled to go on trial July 30, with jury selection taking up the week prior. Vaughn's jury selection is scheduled to start Aug. 13. He is accused of shooting to death his wife and three children in the family's SUV on the way to a Springfield water park.

Assistant State's Attorney John Connor is a key prosecutor on both cases. On Wednesday, he told the judge hearing the Vaughn case that the state was adding two new prosecutors to assist with the trial.

"We're proceeding as though my schedule will not permit my continued participation in this case," Connor told the judge.

Also Wednesday, Judge Daniel Rozak ordered a hearing to determine what testimony a defense-hired psychiatrist will be able to give about whether Vaughn feigned amnesia after the slayings.

Dr. Terry Killian issued a 46-page report in which he finds, based on a review of Vaughn's videotaped interrogation and other records, that he wasn't faking the condition, according to testimony last week.

Vaughn told police that he only remembered pulling off the road when his wife told him she was sick and shortly after noticing his leg was bleeding. He later told police that he remembered his wife pointing a gun at him.

Prosecutors argued in court last week that Killian's methods in creating his report didn't follow the generally accepted practice in his field, noting that he never interviewed Vaughn.

Defense attorney George Lenard said Vaughn's prior lawyers instructed Killian not to speak with Vaughn. Lenard argued that the report was still sound.

"The amnesia theory that Dr. Killian will testify about — this isn't new, it's not novel, it's been around for a long time," he said in court last week.

But on Wednesday, Rozak said a hearing was needed to determine whether Killian reached his conclusions using generally accepted scientific principles and which opinions could be testified about at trial.

"There are a lot of questions about how he reached his conclusion," Rozak said.

A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

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