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The fatal early evening crash shocked Chicago's bike community. The driver of the car that hit Cann, Ryne San Hamel, was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI. The case also drew a spotlight to the Illinois courts' handling of drunk driving, after the Reader was the first to report that San Hamel had, years earlier, twice been arrested behind the wheel, paying fines and retaining his driver's license in both cases.
As the Cann death case inches through the courts, community outrage has turned to disillusionment. A trial date has yet to be set, and motions filed by San Hamel's new high-profile defense attorney appear likely to extend pretrial arguments at least through the end of summer.
Delays of several years are not uncommon in fatal DUI prosecutions, says Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. In some cases, prosecutors may seek to delay trials until witnesses are available or additional evidence is gathered.
On the other hand, with a lengthy pretrial comes the chance of witnesses backing out or disappearing, legal experts note.
"Of course, the defense attorney will use pretrial motions to their advantage as much as possible," says Kreslin. "It's usually up to the judge to tell them, 'That's enough, move it along.'"
In October, San Hamel hired celebrity defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., best known for representing R. Kelly and ex-governor Rod Blagojevich. After getting up to speed on the case, Adam in January filed three pretrial motions asking the judge to suppress evidence and drop the reckless homicide charge on constitutional grounds.
An additional defense motion filed Tuesday morning seeks to suppress all evidence relating to the consumption of alcohol, according to Kathryn Conway, an attorney representing the Cann family in a civil suit against San Hamel. (Spokespeople for Adam and assistant state's attorney Maria Augustus did not return requests for comment.)
Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a vigorous defense and due process. Whether the constitutional arguments Adam is weaving for his client have merit will be for presiding judge in the case, William Hooks, to determine. Augustus has already filed a response opposing the motion to dismiss the reckless homicide charge. The arguments seem certain to drag on at least through summer, with a hearing next scheduled for August.
In the meantime, Cann's family, all of whom live out of state, continue to make the trek to pretrial hearings at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California.
"We have trouble understanding why it would take so long—there must be issues we don't get. It is exceedingly frustrating," Maria Cann, the victim's mother, says. "It is hard not to feel sometimes like this case has been forgotten."