CHICAGO — A judge ruled Tuesday that a wrongful conviction petition has merit and can move forward in the high-profile murder case of Marni Yang.
It has been almost nine years since Yang was sentenced to life without parole for murder. But in recent years, her attorneys have uncovered new evidence.
"The challenge for me is to compare the story she told to her friend with the immutable true facts of the crime. And when they didn't mesh, we knew it was a false confession," said Yang's attorney Jed Stone.
A judge has yet to make a decision on whether or not Yang will get a new trial.
"Marni is a strong woman. An intelligent person, so you can have a conversation with her relative to explaining what's going on," said Yang's father Larry Merar.
Yang’s conviction came after a trial which portrayed her as a spurned girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle. Prosecutors claimed Yang was driven by jealousy in killing Rhoni Reuter, who was six-months pregnant with Gayle’s child.
In a news conference last month, Yang’s children and her attorneys insisted that evidence proves she did not commit the murder. They raised questions over the getaway vehicle, the trajectories of the bullets and the lack of DNA linked to Yang. They also claim Yang provided a false confession to protect her son, who was 16 at the time, and sick at home from school that day.
A longtime friend of victim Rhoni Reuter has also expressed doubt about Yang’s guilt. After meeting with Yang’s legal team, Michelle Ammentorp said she believes the actual killer is still out there, and that Yang was wrongfully convicted. Ammentorp was especially swayed by a ballistics report indicating that Yang was too short to have fired the fatal shots.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim issued a statement following the Marni Yang ruling:
"This is a formal three stage process. During stage 1, the judge is only required to review the statements made by the defense attorney. Therefore, to make it from stage 1 to stage 2 was and is expected. At stage 2, we will have the opportunity to respond to the claims made by the defense for the first time."
Another status hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15.