Woman accepts plea in overturned drug homicide case
WOODSTOCK – A woman whose conviction and 10-year sentence for drug-induced homicide was overturned on appeal has accepted a plea deal and could be out of prison in about three months.
Amanda Coots, 29, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison as part of the deal accepted Tuesday by McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather.
Coots has been in custody since August 2009 could receive day-for-day credit for that time.
In April 2010, Coots received the 10-year sentence following a jury trial in which prosecutors said she delivered a fatal dose of heroin to 36-year-old Rustin Cawthon at a McHenry motel.
During the trial, prosecutors said Coots gave Cawthon a second, fatal bag of heroin after he said the first dose didn’t get him high. Cawthon collapsed into a hotel recliner, and Coots left without seeking help. He was found dead the next day.
Coots' defense centered on Cawthon’s previous suicide attempts with heroin and said that he was having suicidal thoughts before taking the lethal doses of heroin.
Earlier this year, however, the 2nd District Appellate Court ruled that neither Coots' attorney, Colin MacMeekin, nor Prather adequately answered the jury’s question of whether the word “delivery” could mean “give.”
Prather did not answer the question, and MacMeekin did not object.
MacMeekin has said the opinion gave a kind of road map for how to retry the case and that might have presented “the theory of joint possession,” meaning that both Coots and Cawthon possessed the drugs.
MacMeekin said Tuesday that the appellate court's decision gave him a stronger case, but said it still was no guarantee that Coots would be acquitted at trial.
"I don't think that either side is real happy with the results, but that's what it is," he said.
Coots’ criminal history includes multiple revoked probations and two felony convictions for failing to register as a sex offender for a Lake County case.
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