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La Salle murder trial postponed over coronavirus

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OTTAWA — The trial for a La Salle man accused of smothering his baby has been postponed again -- and this time it's because of coronavirus precautions.

Kenneth Herbst, 24, made an unscheduled appearance Thursday in La Salle County Circuit Court on his pending case of first-degree murder. He faces 20-60 years in prison if convicted of killing his infant son last year.

Herbst was supposed to stand trial in April, but Thursday he and public defender Tim Cappellini asked for an indefinite continuance because a witness is unavailable. The expert is out of the area and cannot travel with Illinois under travel and movement restrictions due to coronavirus.

The state had no objection. Herbst had previously waived, and continues to waive, his right to a speedy trial. Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. scheduled a status hearing for May 22, by which time the infection controls could be lifted.

Court activity had slowed to a crawl in recent weeks as all non-urgent cases were put on indefinite hold. While felonies have not been relegated to the back-burner, attorneys report coronavirus is forcing postponements in those cases, too.

Witnesses are not available and/or are under lockdown. Investigators are impeded from conducting face-to-face interviews. And few, if anybody, in the courthouse is eager to pick a jury of 12 to sit in close quarters hearing evidence and deliberating behind closed doors.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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