It was a stunning reversal for Gaege Bethune in September when Judge Mark Clarke told a shocked courtroom that he was overthrowing the jury’s first degree murder conviction in the 2014 death of Pravin Varughese.
The judge explained to the court that he was setting aside the murder conviction and ordering a new trial based on a language error in the indictment that the judge felt presented a “unacceptable risk of confusion” for the jury.
“I was in complete shock, ” said Lovely Varughese who has endured what she describes as multiple ups and downs over the past four years. “I thought that after all these years of fight, finally we had justice. A jury found Gaege guilty of murdering my son and he walked without any problem in front of our eyes.”
Instead of going to prison for at least 20 years, Bethune walked free on bond. Chicago defense attorney Steve Greenberg is Bethune’s new lawyer preparing to retry the case.
“My client is a victim in this case,” Greenberg said.
But the prosecution argued Bethune injured Varughese in a roadside fight over money. Varughese fled into the woods and died on a frigid February night.
“He (Gaege) didn’t do anything wrong except try and give someone a ride home that night.” Greenberg said. But autopsy reports show Varughese’s head was bruised from a punch.
“He punched him because he was being robbed. The young man wouldn’t get out of Gaege’s car.”
The prosecution argued if anything the evidence in the case showed Varughese was the victim of the robbery, not the perpetrator. The jury agreed and after nearly eight hours of deliberations, came back with a murder conviction.
“I’m convinced the reason why the jury convicted in this case was that Gaege did not purport self-defense which he should have,” Greenberg said. “He regrets what happened. But look what this has done to his life. Where is the sympathy for someone who is wrongly accused because you have an overzealous mother.
Lovely says she’s simply fighting for a son who’s not here fighting for himself.
“I am a mother and I will never give up,” Lovely added.
The prosecutors have asked the Illinois Supreme court to dismiss the judge’s decision to overturn the murder conviction. If their motion is denied, prosecutors say they are ready to retry the case.