Witness refuses to take oath, takes the stand anyway in Bloomington triple-murder case

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — On the fourth day of a murder trial in Bloomington, a witness refused to be sworn in to testify but took the stand anyway.

The accused killer, Sydney Mays, faces life in prison if convicted of the deadly shooting that happened in June 2018.

Prosecutors have argued that Mays opened fire in a Bloomington apartment on Riley Drive, killing 22-year-old Nate Pena, 22-year-old Corey Jackson and 33-year-old Juan Carlos Perez.

Pena’s 4-year-old son was also hit by gunfire and paralyzed during the crime.

Thursday, prosecutors questioned what happened in the minutes following the shooting, and they focused on Mays’ behavior.

They called Mays’ friends to the stand to ask about his reported attempts to leave town after the crime.

More than one witness told the judge that they could not remember what happened on that day in 2018, saying things like “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall.”

One witness, called by the state, told the judge he would not take the oath that always precedes sworn testimony and requires a commitment to tell the truth.

“You do realize in going ahead and presenting false testimony to the court or in response to questions being asked, could subject you to contempt of court or possible perjury. Do you understand that?” Judge Casey Costigan said.

“Yes. I do,” the witness replied.

The man is a cousin of Mays and was expected to testify about allegedly helping hide the suspect’s clothes from the crime scene.

The judge still allowed him to take the stand and answer questions after a warning that he could face perjury charges if he was found to be lying.

A legal expert told WMBD that it is a situation that is “almost unheard of.”

Robert Parker, of Parker & Parker Attorneys at Law, said it was likely allowed because no attorneys objected.

“It should be as though they didn’t have any force or effect to their testimony, to what they said. However, it does require an objection for the error to be in the record, and if no one objected, than it is considered not preserved and it is waived as an issue,” Parker said.

He said the decision also could have been influenced by the fact that it is a bench trial and not up to any jurors to decipher witness testimony in the case.

“A judge may be far more equipped to say in their own mind even if not in an express ruling, I need to or I won’t give this much, or even any, force and effect in terms of my ruling on the ultimate outcome,” Parker said. “The judge may have allowed this to proceed because in his own mind, he thought this really doesn’t matter much to me.”

Mays’ attorney did not object to the testimony.

The final witnesses are scheduled to take the stand Friday morning. A verdict is expected by early next week.

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