Police investigating message on pizza box sent to jurors in murder trial
A message in a pizza box threw the Daniel Rak murder trial for a loop Friday.
Fifteen jurors were questioned, individually, about whether seeing the phrase "They're innocent" written inside the lid of their dinner would affect their ability to be fair and impartial. Rak is accused of killing his father, Jeffrey Rak, in February 2016.
The pizza box was discovered by the bailiff when he was cleaning up the jury room after a dinner break Thursday night. He brought the box to Kane County Judge D.J. Tegeler.
No details have been released about what restaurant the pizzas were from or about the procedures for bringing the food to the jury room.
Only one juror said he did not see the writing, and all said they could still do their duty.
"We laughed about it, but that was it. I thought it was a silly joke," one of the male jurors said.
St. Charles police are investigating the incident as an outside agency. Court security is part of the sheriff's department.
The message wasn't the only jury-related issue.
The judge also examined a male alternate juror and a court security worker about whether they had spoken about the case. The security officer testified that while he was escorting jurors to their cars Thursday night, one asked him if Rak was in the Kane County jail or got to go home each evening. The juror said the officer told him Rak was not in the jail and could go home. The man told Tegeler that the answer would not affect his ability to be fair and impartial.
The juror does not know that the answer was not true. Rak has remained in jail since his arrest in June 2016. He wears regular clothes in court.
All the jurors were again instructed not to talk to anybody about the case and to submit any questions to the bailiff.
Tegeler has also asked to speak to the director of court security about the matter.
At the trial Friday, neuropathologists testified about when a large blood clot formed on Jeffrey Rak's brain. The clot is listed on the coroner's report as the cause of death. Kane County prosecutors contend that it developed after Daniel Rak hit his father in the face several times Feb. 11, 2016, breaking the man's nose.
Rak, a chronic alcoholic with myriad medical problems, was discovered dead on his bedroom floor around 3:30 a.m. Feb. 13, 2016. Daniel Rak's girlfriend has testified that Jeffrey Rak frequently fell, and his medical records indicate he also suffered from seizures.
The prosecution's expert, Dr. Mark Reyes, who examined Jeffrey Rak's brain as a consultant for the Kane County coroner's office, said the age of the clot was consistent with police and autopsy reports he was sent. The bleeding would have been aggravated by the blood thinner Jeffrey Rak had been taking.
But the defense expert, Dr. Douglas Miller, said the clot was most likely at least five days old. He was able to examine only slides and photos of tissues taken by Reyes, not the brain itself. A more precise time could have been determined if Reyes had taken a sample of the inner part of the clot had been taken, not just the edge, Miller said.
Miller also testified that it was possible Jeffrey Rak died of a heart attack, given that he had a 100 percent blockage of the main artery of the heart, or a seizure. But because the county's medical examiner did not test samples of Rak's heart tissues, there's no way now to determine that, he said.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday.