QUINCY -- The University of Chicago Exoneration Project has agreed to represent Quincy lawyer Curtis Lovelace in his first-degree murder case.
Bill Clutter, a leader of Springfield, Ill.-based Investigating Innocence, announced Monday that the Exoneration Project will be offering its service to Lovelace for free. Lovelace is accused of suffocating his wife Cory with a pillow on Feb. 14, 2006. Lovelace's first trial ended last month with a hung jury, and a mistrial was declared by Judge Bob Hardwick. Lovelace's retrial is scheduled to begin May 31.
"Having (the Exoneration Project) on board is a big development for Curtis and his family," Clutter said.
Clutter said Jon Loevy, a clinical instructor with the project, met with Lovelace on Friday at the Hancock County Jail and vowed to use the project's resources to assist him. Since its inception in 2007, the Exoneration Project has helped free 14 people who had been in prison.
Lovelace's case appears to be different from the cases the project normally handles -- people who already have been convicted of a crime. Lovelace's first trial, which lasted two weeks, ended after 16 hours of deliberation by the jury spread over two days that wound up in a 6-6 split.
The Exoneration Project cases are handled by a combination of attorneys, University of Chicago law students, interns and volunteers.
Lawyers with the group have not formally enter their appearance in Lovelace's case, and Adams County Circuit Court records show that Lovelace's lawyers in the first trial, James Elmore and Jeff Page, have yet to formally withdraw as his counsel. Both men have said they won't represent Lovelace in a second trial.
Attempts to reach Tara Thompson, an Exoneration Project leader, were not successful Monday.
Clutter last week started a fundraising effort on Lovelace's behalf, seeking to raise $15,000 for use in any trial-related expenses. A week into the campaign, more than a third of the money has been raised. The group is offering "Free Curtis Lovelace" T-shirts for people who donate at least $50, and Clutter said best-selling crime author Scott Turow has offered three signed copies of "Presumed Innocent" to those who donate $1,000 to Lovelace's cause.
"When we went to speak with Curtis last week, he said that he was inspired by 'Presumed Innocent' when he was young, and it helped him to decide to go to law school," Clutter said.
Lovelace has been jailed since Aug. 27, 2014, when an Adams County grand jury handed down an indictment on the first-degree murder charge. Clutter hopes a bond reduction will be considered for Lovelace, who is being held in the Hancock County Jail on $5 million bond.
"If the bond is lowered to a reasonable amount, I believe that Curtis' backers will help raise the money to free him," Clutter said.