Christina Mejia had hoped a court hearing Thursday would signal the end of a case that has gone on for more than two years, where an Orland Park man is accused of reckless homicide in the DUI-related crash that killed her daughter.
But that wasn't to be.
Instead, Nicholas Sord, 24, has opted not take a plea agreement offered in August -- the details of which have not been made public -- at least for now. Sord is currently out on bond and appeared in Judge Frank Zelezinski's Markham courtoom Thursday wearing a dark blue suit.
"He didn't take the deal," said Christina Mejia after the hearing. Other family members and friends couldn't hide their disappointment as they hugged each other.
Police say Sord was close to three times over the blood-alcohol limit on New Year’s Day 2010 when he lost control of his SUV near 147th Street and Oak Park Avenue, killing 20-year-old Jessica Mejia of New Lenox, a Lincoln Way-Central High School graduate.
Christina Mejia and several of Jessica's family and friends have shown up to every hearing. They routinely wear buttons that proclaim "I pray for Justice for Jessica." During Thursday's hearing, Christina Mejia wore a purple t-shirt that had rhinestones in a peace symbol on the front and "JESSICA" spelled out in glittery stones on the back, above a rendering of an angel.
Jessica's mother has noted in previous interviews with Patch that her faith and her strong memories of Jessica keep her going.
"But I know that she's with me and I know that she's with God," Mejia added.
Defense Says Jessica Caused Accident
But the case is not over. Sord's attorney, Jeff Aprati, said the next step for his client's defense is to fight a motion that prosecutors are preparing to exclude evidence from experts who will reconstruct the accident scene.
According to Aprati, that evidence will show that Sord was going six to eight miles under the speed limit before the crash -- and that Jessica "interfered with [Sord's] driving to cause the accident."
However, prosecutors plan to file a motion that will preclude that testimony based on case law that deems Sord guilty because he had a blood alcohol level of more than .08, even if he didn't cause the crash, Aprati said.
"It's ridiculous to me," Aprati continued, referring to the interpretation of the law. "Here's my example: Say you're in a car with your best friend and you've both been drinking and you're driving. Say a lightning bolt hits your car, the car rolls over and your friend dies. You can be charged with their death.
"And there's no defense to that," he added. "You're guilty if they can prove there was alcohol or a controlled substance in your system."
Aprati said he hasn't ruled out the plea agreement, but he's waiting on Zelezinski's ruling on the state's motion. If the state can preclude the expert testimony, he said, prosecutors will argue that other details surrounding the crash aren't relevant, only Sord's blood alcohol level.
Arguments for the motion are set for Jan. 11, 2013.
As she does with every hearing, Christina Mejia plans to be there.
"I leave it in God's hands," she said. "And I know the truth will prevail."