Illinois Supreme Court reinstates conviction in 1996 shooting death of 6-year-old boy



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AURORA, Illinois — The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated the conviction of man who is serving prison time for fatally shooting a 6-year-old boy as he slept in his grandparents' house.

The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1GaccRm ) reports a state appeals court previously vacated 39-year-old Mark Downs' conviction on the grounds that the judge in his 2009 trial gave improper jury instructions about the definition of "reasonable doubt." Downs also claimed his lawyer was ineffective.

In rejecting Downs' appeal, the Supreme Court ruled Illinois law doesn't define "reasonable doubt." The high court's decision also said state court rules urge judges not to give a definition when asked.

The Supreme Court also remanded the case back to the appellate court to determine whether Downs had an ineffective lawyer.

The Montgomery man was sentenced to 70 years behind bars after being convicted in the 1996 shooting death of Nicholas "Nico" Contreras. The boy was shot and killed as he slept in a bedroom at his grandmother's home in Aurora. Prosecutors argued a gang leader ordered Downs to kill Contreras's uncle, who normally slept in that room.

Downs is currently imprisoned at the Stateville Correctional Center.


Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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