Judge orders new trial in 1991 Bloomington stabbing death

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — A central Illinois judge on Wednesday granted a new trial to man who has spent 27 years in prison for his father's 1991 beating and stabbing death.

McLean County Judge Scott Drazewski on Wednesday ruled Donald Whalen, 52, should get a new trial in the killing of his father, William Whalen, who was found stabbed more than 30 times and beaten with a pool cue in a downtown Bloomington bar, The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reported .

The judge issued his ruling after three days of hearings on Whalen's request for a new trial, which was based on new information developed since his trial. Whalen lowered his head and wiped tears from his eyes after the ruling was announced. He reached out to his mother, Colleen Whalen, who also was crying, before he was returned to prison pending a bond hearing Tuesday.

Whalen's bond was set at $2 million, which means he will need to post $200,000 to be released pending trial. He is nearing the end of the 30 years he is required to serve of a 60-year sentence.

Drazewski said a new trial is warranted because DNA and fingerprint evidence is great enough to "undermine confidence in the outcome of the trial."

Whalen is represented by attorneys with The Exoneration Project, who said they are hopeful the state will drop the case. The McLean County State's Attorney's Office has 30 days to decide if it will appeal the ruling and if it will move forward with a second trial.

"Once my team and I have had an opportunity to review the court's ruling in detail and compare it to the evidence introduced at trial as well as the post-conviction hearings, we will determine an appropriate path forward," McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp said in a statement after the ruling.

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com