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Local News

Marital privilege at issue in Joliet murder case

Shane G. Smith
Shane G. Smith

JOLIET – Some of the statements a Joliet man made after allegedly killing his mother will not be used in his murder trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Some of the conversations Shane G. Smith, 36, had with his wife fall under the protection of marital privilege, defense attorney Philip Villasenor argued.

On Oct. 17, 2013, Joan M. Smith's body was found in the Des Plaines River near Brandon Road in Joliet. Another relative had reported the 59-year-old woman missing a few days earlier. Shane Smith and his brother were living with their mother in the 1600 block of Black Road at the time.

"This is information given because of the marital relationship," Villasenor said. "Mr. Smith doesn't talk to a sibling or a friend – he talks to his wife."

After Joan Smith was last reported seen, Shane Smith called his wife, Teri Smith, and invited her to go fishing with him, according to prosecutor Mark Fleszewski.

"Out of nowhere, he called her up to go fishing. [She saw him] throw his clothes in the river. He turns to her and tells her he killed his mom, then says how he choked his mother and disposed of the body," Fleszewski told Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes.

In 2013, the state supreme court ruled regarding marital privilege that "the communication must be an utterance or other expression intended to convey a message and the message must be intended to be confidential." Teri Smith will be able to testify about her observations and her actions, Alessio Policandriotes said.

And since marital privilege does not apply in cases where someone is threatening or harming their spouse, Teri Smith is expected to talk about what Shane Smith allegedly said after they fished.

"He gave her [his mother's] purse and told her to throw it away ... and held a knife to her," Fleszewski said.

"The court notes his confidence in the marriage ceases when he threatens her with the knife. She may testify about anything said from that point on. He loses the privilege of the marital relationship," Alessio Policandriotes said.

The case is expected to go to trial next year.

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