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Judge declares mistrial in former Joliet city councilman's DUI case

Councilman Jim McFarland addresses members of the public and the Joliet City Council on Aug. 18, 2015. He submitted his resignation Friday from City Council.
Councilman Jim McFarland addresses members of the public and the Joliet City Council on Aug. 18, 2015. He submitted his resignation Friday from City Council.

JOLIET – A Will County judge declared a mistrial in a case where a former Joliet City Council member was accused of driving under the influence and other traffic offenses.

After almost five hours of deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous agreement on whether former City Council member Jim McFarland was guilty of DUI. After the jury left the courtroom at close to 10 p.m., Judge Chrystel Gavlin declared a mistrial and a pretrial date was set for Nov. 3.

McFarland was arrested on a DUI charge July 10, 2016, on Interstate 80 in the New Lenox area. He also was charged with improper lane usage and driving between 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit.

Jurors began deliberations at about 5 p.m. Wednesday after hearing arguments from county prosecutors, McFarland’s attorney, George Lenard, viewing a video of the traffic stop and testimony from State Trooper Brian Apostal.

In dash cam video of the traffic stop shown to jurors, Apostal’s squad car is seen pulling over McFarland’s car. The audio was hard to hear at times because of nearby traffic.

Apostal asks McFarland to “be straight up with me” after asking him if he had been drinking and McFarland said he had three drinks.

During a test where McFarland was directed to walk, he tells Apostal he has a bad knee but can perform the test anyway. He staggers a bit and loses his footing at one point while walking toward his car but appeared not to stumble when walking back to Apostal’s squad car.

Apostal testified to the jury he considers the “totality of the circumstances” when making a DUI arrest.

When he approached McFarland, Apostal alleged McFarland’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy, his speech was slurred and his breath smelled of alcohol.

Apostal said McFarland performed poorly on field sobriety tests. He also alleged McFarland inconsistently noted if he’d been drinking or not, saying at first he had no drinks, then three drinks, then two and finally none.

Lenard noted during his questioning of Apostal’s traffic stop and DUI testing that McFarland used correct lane use signaling at one point and parked perfectly when he pulled over.

In final arguments, county prosecutors argued there were several instances McFarland showed “consciousness of guilt.”

Those instances included how he pulled over to the shoulder of the highway before Apostal turned on his siren lights, allegedly told Apostal he wasn’t drinking before he was asked if he was and refused to take a breathalyzer test, prosecutors said.

“On July 10, 2016, the defendant made a few choices and now he must bear the consequences,” said Jaclyn Sopcic, a county prosecutor.

In Lenard’s final argument, he said if someone commits a traffic violation, it doesn’t mean they are drunk and that just because McFarland didn’t perform perfectly on his tests, it didn’t mean he was guilty.

He said this case was a “perfect example of reasonable doubt” because it involves two sides giving their “spin on the facts.” He also said his driving was “really good” and that he parked perfectly and put on his emergency lights.

“This is like a police officer’s dream,” Lenard said.

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