We’ve not forgotten about the White County murders
WHITE CO.—Almost a week has passed since Danny K. Coston, 36, made his first appearance in White County Circuit Court, and news has dropped off about the case precipitously—but not for long.
Coston is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, September 12, at 10 a.m., so news reports will pick up with that, whether the prelim goes or not.
For those not familiar: Coston is charged with nine separate counts in the deaths of Jacob Wheeler, 22, and Jessica Evans, 17, on August 26, reportedly while the young people were out at a private rural White County campsite doing night fishing. Five of the counts are of First-Degree Murder. One is of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault of Evans. Court documents show definitively that officials believe Coston shot Evans to death with three gunshots to the head while he was sexually assaulting her. Two are of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm. He is then accused of attempting to conceal Wheeler’s body. Strangely absent is a charge of attempting to conceal Evans’ body, as it was found in the back of Wheeler’s truck, pushed over a riverbank, covered in branches and vegetation.
A preliminary hearing is where the state and the defendant go before a judge in a case and the state has to prove there’s enough evidence against the defendant to “bind him over for trial.” It’s a low threshold of ‘proof,’ much lower than a trial. The state has the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence if need be, in order to convince the judge that there’s enough to keep the charges in place against the defendant. The defense can also put on witnesses that refute what the state is alleging, such as someone who can provide an alibi for the defendant for the time of the alleged crime. But, these days a prelim isn’t held very often; it’s more frequently waived and the case proceeds to pretrial hearings. That’s largely because public defenders, making the minimum allowed to be taken from the taxpayers for the defense, don’t want to expend that kind of effort for limited pay. While Jerry Crisel—Coston’s court-appointed attorney—is a very capable lawyer, he’s going to provide a different defense than say Alan Downen of McLeansboro would. And it would surprise none of us if Downen ultimately is hired on in this case.
But Downen would probably waive prelim, too. Why?
Because often, a prelim will do two things: cast more light on what the state has against the defendant (which can be damning, especially when it’s widely disseminated by the media and the jury pool hears it, making it difficult for jury selection; think Brandon Jenkins, and taking the better part of two full days to select) and because the defendant doesn’t want to be forced to play his hand and show the state in advance what his defense is going to be. In this country, the only defense needs to be “he didn’t do it” under the Constitutional “innocent until proven guilty.” So even through questioning by the defense attorney of the state’s witnesses, a little of the defense’s potential trial approach could come seeping through. And that’s not always a good thing for the accused.
Therefore, it is a distinct possibility that Coston will waive his prelim when 10 a.m. rolls around Wednesday, and that he’ll be set for speedy trial (120 days from date of charges). And then the media coverage will again slow down…because at pretrial conferences, there’s not going to be a lot said, and state’s discovery isn’t placed in the file in full nor discussed in full during hearings, so again…not a lot to report.
With the filing of charges and initial appearance, all that’s now missing from the case is the answer to the big question, WHY? Why did this happen? Was it as “random” as officials are encouraging everyone to believe?
Or is there something more to the case that’s not being said…and will that ‘something more’ be part of the defense?
We’ve done a lot of background investigation into the lives of all involved. And we said here about a week ago that if we tell it all, what we’ve found might piss people off. Unfortunately, some of it is going to HAVE to be presented. This is because in a case such as this, the character of ALL involved, and of those around them, ends up factoring heavily into the matter when it goes to jury. That’s why people are called in as “character witnesses.” And be assured: we are NOT “trying a defendant in print.” It is the PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW how their tax dollars are spent, and whether they are being spent wisely. If there is information that’s being overlooked, oftentimes a good news investigation will force it to the fore (think Brandon Jenkins). We will be as straightforward with the information we have as possible. But we’re afraid it’s going to make at least one of the sectors mad, and maybe all of them before this is all over with. There’s been much made over this statement in online sites who seek to disparage what we do, wherein they claim that we “say this all the time so we can sell papers.” Not true. In our nearly ten years of Disclosure, we’ve NEVER said “what we potentially have coming up may piss people off.” Never. Period. We HAVE said “this is a stinging issue; be sure not to miss it!” or “this is one you won’t believe; pick yours up today!” but never anything even alluding to “piss people off,” even during the Todd Fort ordeal. And see, we don’t even know if we’re going to be able to publish this info…yet. We’re still working on solidifying it. If it’s not solidified by about Wednesday, it’ll have to hold for the next issue in three weeks. But we can just about guarantee that it’ll appear eventually…and we’re pretty sure that when it does, it’s going to make some folks pretty mad. But it’s news. And like we say here at Disclosure very frequently: We don’t have friends. Because usually, in the end, we wind up writing about somebody that somebody knows…and in the end, that’s EVERYBODY.
There’s a WHY out there, folks. There always is. If there’s a plea, we learn it in stipulation. If there’s a trial, we learn it when it’s told to the jury. We intend to learn it a little earlier…because we know you want to know. So keep checking back, as interesting information keeps flowing in. If we can, we’ll pass it along to you, but bear in mind: this is the week we put the print version together, and the bills have to be paid. The print version is what pays them, so keep that in mind if you don’t see it here. We thank you for checking in with us though; and if you have any info you’d like to pass along, feel free: firstname.lastname@example.org
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