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Crime & Courts

Sandwich man's trial on attempted 1st-degree murder charges begins

Defendant is facing attempted murder charges

SYCAMORE – The trial of a Sandwich man charged with attempted murder began Monday, with jury selection and opening statements.

Carl Russell, 45, of the 1100 block of Lillian Lane, was charged in July 2017 with attempted murder after police said he admitted to shooting Eric Peterson of Plano in the face. Peterson most likely is paralyzed for life, his family has said.

Attorney Brian Wright, representing Russell at trial, said the case is not a “whodunit,” and they don’t dispute that Russell shot Peterson in the face that night. But he said he and prosecutors differ on why.

During jury selection Monday, defense attorneys Wright and Regina Harris asked potential jurors if they felt someone had the right to defend themselves. During his opening statement, Wright said that Peterson was doing just that.

“He was trying to protect himself and his home,” Wright said.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein argued in her opening statement that Russell shot Peterson at the end of an evening of escalating confrontation. What began as a housewarming party at a duplex that shared a driveway and wall with Russell’s residence became tense after Russell made statements to make women at the party uncomfortable.

Both the prosecution and defense said people at the party had accused Peterson of not defending his girlfriend, Lorena Melendez, before he went out to talk to Russell.

Although they disagreed on the circumstance, both the prosecution and defense agreed that Russell ended up shooting Peterson in the right eye. The defense argued Peterson had gone to confront Russell, while prosecutors said he had gone to talk to Russell.

Wright said the difference came to “Why?”

Jury selection took most of the day.

While the defense asked about a person’s right to defend themselves in their home, the prosecution asked potential jurors their feelings about gun ownership, whether it was a right or if they owned guns themselves, and if they felt it came with responsibility.

Russell has been held in the DeKalb County Jail in lieu of a $750,000 bond. If convicted of the most serious charge, attempted first-degree murder, Russell could face life in prison.

The prosecution said it will call Peterson as its first witness Tuesday morning.

The trial is expected to continue through Wednesday this week and, because of a scheduling conflict with Judge Phillip Montgomery, will resume Monday.

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