DeKALB – Although Regina Harris is resigning as DeKalb County public defender, neither she nor the state’s attorney anticipate a delay in the murder trials of her high-profile clients, Jack McCullough and William Curl.
“It’s the reason why I’m leaving now rather than later in the summer,” said Harris, who has held the position since May 2007. Her resignation was announced and effective Friday.
Earlier this week, attorneys agreed to a Sept. 10 trial date for McCullough, a 72-year-old Seattle man who is charged with the 1957 murder of a 7-year-old Sycamore girl.
Curl, who is charged with killing Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller in 2010, is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 3. Curl’s sister, Moria Curl, said she was concerned what Harris’ resignation would mean for her brother’s case.
“He has been sitting [in jail] way too long already,” Moria Curl said in a statement sent to the Daily Chronicle. “He is an innocent man in this case. I was really hoping he would be free as of December. Now this will only take more time to prove.”
State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said any motion to delay either trial would come from the defendants.
“My obligation is to ensure that we’re ready for those trials by those dates,” Campbell said.
Until a permanent replacement is found, local attorney Robert Carlson will be the acting public defender, Judge Robbin Stuckert announced. Neither Carlson nor Stuckert could be reached for comment Friday.
Harris said Carlson was co-counsel through McCullough’s trial on unrelated rape charges earlier this year, and is well-briefed on the Curl trial. McCullough was acquitted in April of those charges.
“He’s more than capable of doing these cases,” Harris said, noting Carlson’s 35 years’ experience. Carlson also has been with the public defender’s office since May 2009.
Harris said her move to a private practice had been “a long time coming,” but it was only recently that she seriously considered it and made her decision.
“Once I made it, I felt I should make it and go,” Harris said. She declined to say more about her plans.
Campbell said he has worked extensively with Harris on a day-to-day basis since he took office.
“Public defenders are the unsung heroes of the legal system. I applaud Ms. Harris and other public defenders who work on behalf of their clients,” Campbell said. “It’s not an easy job and it certainly takes dedication.”