Jury Picked, Muddy Paws Animal Cruelty Trial Starts Wednesday Morning
Prosecution’s witnesses include young son of accused, police officers, veterinarians.
Update 7:20 p.m., Sept. 6
Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected after a day of questioning by Judge James Booras, and attorneys representing the prosecution and the defense.
The composition of the jury is seven men and five women. Of the 12 jurors, six are currently pet owners and five of the six have dogs. The jurors have a range of occupations, with some in management. There are two retired individuals and a homemaker.
After selecting four jurors of eight questioned in the morning, the court recessed. In the afternoon, the judge and attorneys selected eight of 19 jurors interrogated, then proceeded to choose the two alternates.
Assistant State's Attorneys Suzanne Willett and Rachel Rubles Eschbach, co-prosecutors with Michael Mermel, continued to question jurors.
Willett told jurors that they needed to bring their commonsense. "This is not like CSI; the facts will come from the witness stand . . . listen to all the facts and then make up your mind," Willett said.
Prosecutors continued to ask jurors if they had seen decomposing animals, such as roadkill, and whether they had witnessed the animals decompose to bone.
Following that line of questioning, defense attorney John Curnyn asked the jurors if they had seen how the roadkill died. He told jurors that they cannot speculate on how the roadkill died and reminded jurors that the prosecution has the burden of proof.
The trial State of Illinois vs. Diane Eldrup begins at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Nineteenth Judicial Court in Waukegan.
12:50 p.m., Sept. 6
Jury selection began this morning for the trial of Diane Eldrup who is facing felony charges for aggravated animal cruelty and animal torture. When court recessed for lunch at noon, four jurors were approved. Four other jurors, who were questioned, were excused by Ninteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Booras.
Jurors were interrogated by Booras, Assistant States Attorney Michael Mermel, who is prosecuting the case; and defense attorney John Curnyn, as to whether they could be fair and impartial.
Eldrup will go before a jury on 19 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a Class 4 felony with a maximum punishment of one to three years in jail, and 19 counts of animal torture, a Class 3 felony that carries a maximum jail sentence of five years.
A total of 34 dogs and numerous birds were discovered dead at Muddy Paws, a former rescue and boarding facility on Route 12 in Deer Park.
Curnyn asked jurors questions including if they were involved in animal advocacy; if they had pets; whether they had heard of Muddy Paws, and whether they could be impartial after looking at photographs of deceased dogs. He also asked jurors if they understood that the state needs to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the state has the burden of proof.
Mermel’s questions included whether the jurors considered themselves to have commonsense and whether they had ever seen an animal deteriorate.
Jurors who were excused included a man from Kildeer who said he had heard of the Muddy Paws case; a man who said he heard of the case, knew two of the witnesses and had a brother in intensive care; a woman who said she was uncomfortable with her command of the English language; and a woman who was a victim of a violent crime who said she was a loyal dog owner and may not be able to deal with the photos of dogs.
Prior to jury selection, Judge James Booras introduced the case, The People of the State of Illinois vs. Diane Eldrup. He named witnesses that may be called on the state’s behalf. They include members of the Kildeer Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office; members of Lake County Animal Control, veterinarians, as well as Diane Eldrup’s estranged husband, Kurt Eldrup, and her fourth-grade son, Tyler.
Jury selection continues at 1:10 p.m.