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Defense rests, closing arguments coming in Ziegler arson trial

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 12:07 p.m. CST

WOODSTOCK - The defense rested its case Thursday morning and closing arguments will begin in the afternoon in the case of an Joseph O. Ziegler, an Elmhurst man accused of burning a home – the wrong home _ as revenge for stolen drugs.

The defense again called Dakota Wilkinson, who previously testified that Ziegler talked about causing damage to Nick Pennington's home the night before the fire. Wilkinson also said he saw Ziegler in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 2012 with a propane tank in his hand.

The prosecution has argued that Ziegler believed Pennington stole his drugs, and vowing revenge, attempted to burn Pennington's house. But Ziegler missed his target, the prosecution claimed, and instead torched a home two doors down the street.

In what proved to be the most contentious day of the trial, Defense Attorney Edward Edens attempted to show that there were inconsistencies in Wilkinson's testimony and the initial statements he gave to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department the morning of the fire.

Assistant State's Attorney Robert Zalud issued more than a dozen separate objections to the line of questioning, nearly all of which were sustained. After multiple sidebars between Judge Sharon Prather and the two attorneys, Prather dismissed the jury and told Edens that he was improperly trying to impeach the witness and he could no longer continue the line of questioning.

"Mr. Edens, I am not arguing with you. I have ruled," Prather said.

The morning started off on an unusual note even before the heated exchange when the fire alarm went off around 9:15. The court room, as well as the entire McHenry County Government Building, was evacuated. After roughly 20 minutes everyone was let back in, as routine maintenance work was believed to be the cause of the alarm.

The Northwest Herald will post the verdict as soon as it is available.

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