Marie Marot does not speak English, but the nun’s broad grin did not require translation from her native French.
“See that? That’s a million-dollar smile,” Marot’s attorney, Don Brewer, said Tuesday afternoon outside a Kane County courtroom where a jury found Marot not guilty of running a red light moments before a fatal crash in an Elgin intersection in 2007.
Marot, 24, who belongs to the Fraternite Notre Dame order, was driving a van to her Chicago convent about 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 7, 2007, when she slammed into a Honda Civic carrying four teens at the intersection of Illinois Highway 72 and Randall Road. One of the Honda passengers, Keith Forbes, 16, of Carpentersville, died in the collision.
Authorities accused Marot of running a red light as she drove south on Randall. But the nun, who had been working prior to the crash at the Algonquin pastry shop operated by her order, has contended her signal was green, Brewer said.
Jurors, who deliberated about 30 minutes before reaching their verdict in the two-day trial, left the courthouse without comment. Prosecutors also declined to comment.
Marot’s superior, Mother Marie Martha, lauded the decision. About 20 nuns from the Fraternite Notre Dame attended the trial Tuesday.
“We just thank God, and we are happy that the truth came to light,” Marie Martha said.
Jurors did not hear testimony about Forbes’ death because Judge Ron Matekaitis decided it could prejudice the trial. Marot was not charged in Forbes’ death.
Despite objections from prosecutors, Marot was allowed by Matekaitis to wear her habit during the trial. She did not testify and her attorneys did not call any witnesses, choosing to attack the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. In his closing argument, Brewer accused the driver of the Civic, Alexis Pena, 18, of East Dundee, of lying.
Pena testified Monday that she was certain she had the right of way as she drove west on Illinois 72 to drop off a friend. That friend, Jameson Sanchez, testified Tuesday that the signal was green.
But Brewer said the teens went through the red light and then later blamed Marot.
“She ran the red light,” Brewer said of Pena, who shook her head in disagreement as she sat in the courtroom with her mother.
Another motorist, Miguel Realzola of Crystal Lake, testified Tuesday that Marot’s van was ahead of him by about six car lengths as they approached the red light. The van did not slow down as it ran the light and plowed into the Civic, he said.
But Brewer attacked Realzola’s credibility, saying the witness had made a deal with prosecutors over pending traffic charges and a misdemeanor charge. Realzola and prosecutors denied there was any deal.
“I don’t think he can be believed,” Brewer said to the jury about Realzola.
Had Marot been found guilty of the traffic violation, she would have faced a fine. The verdict could have implications on civil lawsuits filed against Marot by Pena, another passenger, and the family of Forbes.
“It’s a major boost for the defense in the civil case,” Brewer said.
Marot’s order is a “traditional Catholic” group but is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.