A photograph the police say they have—but apparently can't find—has prompted a Will County judge to suspend the trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching another man into a coma.
The purported picture shows the hand of Joseph Messina, the man standing trial for allegedly pummeling 29-year-old Eric Bartels of Joliet in July 2009 so severely that Bartels is still in a coma.
Judge Sarah Jones has put the trial on hold until July 9. The police have until then to locate the photo.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys were unaware the photograph had been taken. They learned of it while a Mokena police officer was testifying Thursday.
Messina, 23, allegedly knocked Bartels to the ground with one punch outside the Mokena bar 191 South. After Bartels fell, a witness testified, Messina straddled him, punched his face again, then "raised his arms above his head in victory."
The police arrived quickly and found Messina hiding between the seats of a van, witnesses said.
But Messina's attorney, Dave Carlson, insists his client didn't throw the punch that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. In fact, Carlson said, Messina didn't punch anyone at all. The attorney said it was actually one of Messina's close friends who struck Bartels.