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Mokena Coma Punch Case Resumes With State Police Scientists' Testimony

The trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching a Joliet man into a coma more than three years ago was back in court Wednesday.

The trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching another man into a coma started more than five months ago, and on Wednesday it was back on with testimony from three state police scientists.

The scientists were questioned about blood evidence in the case against 24-year-old Joseph Messina, who allegedly beat a man into a coma outside the Mokena bar 191 South back in July 2009.

Messina's trial began in June but the high-profile murder prosecutions of wife-killer Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn—the Oswego man who executed his wife and three children—forced the postponement of his case.

Now, with both Peterson and Vaughn going down guilty, the Messina case is back on.

Messina, who is free on a $250,000 bond, allegedly knocked 29-year-old Eric Bartels of Joliet to the ground with a single punch. After Bartels fell, a witness testified previously, Messina straddled him, ."

The police arrived quickly and found Messina hiding between the seats of a van, witnesses said.

But one of the attorneys representing Messina said Messina didn't throw the punch that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. In fact, said the attorney, Dave Carlson, Messina didn't punch anyone at all. Carlson said it was actually one of Messina's close friends who struck Bartels.

On Tuesday, forensic scientist David Turngren of the Illinois State Police Crime Lab said he performed DNA testing on clothing worn by Messina and Bartels. Turngren testified to finding a mixture of DNA from two people on a shirt Messina was wearing the night Bartels was beaten. The mixture contained DNA from Bartels and from a second person. He said he could not rule out Messina as that second person.

But when questioned by defense attorney Ken Zelazo, Turngren conceded that he could not say with "scientific certainty" the DNA was from Messina's body.

"So it could have come from someone else?" Zelazo asked. Turngren told him, "Yes, it's possible."

Turngren also said he found no DNA from either man on another shirt Messina had on or the blue jeans he was wearing.

After Turngren testified, Carlson told Judge Sarah Jones he plans to call three Mokena police officers and an investigator from the state's attorney's office to the witness stand Thursday morning. Carlson said he has another four civilian witnesses in store for Thursday afternoon.

Mike Hunt December 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
The DNA may have been on his shirt from the scuffle that had happened inside. That's why they were outside stated in previous articles if you keep up with the case at all. So you are telling me that first time run in with the cops with something serious as this is you wouldn't be scared. It's human nature to be scared in something like this. Just like if you are doing the speed limit your stomach cropland you press the brakes even though you are doing the speed limit. If you don't like the way the court system is set up I would strongly advise you to move to a different county.
Tom Skendla December 06, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Mike, I respect your opinion but have to disagree. I know that if I was not guilty of something as pathetic as this and the police were called I would be eager to immediatley clear my name and move on with my life, but then again I'm not a coward like Messina. His friend that he is throwing under the bus must be real proud of him as well. Either way the witness testimony is going to be where this case is decided.
Ed December 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Look up the word coward and you will see Messina's picture there. Look up sucker punch and you will see his picture there too. He'll find out what a sissy he really is in Stateville.
Ed December 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Mike, You are full of crap.
John Roberts December 07, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Why was he hiding?...Why stuff yourself between 2 seats?....it should be required for bars to place cameras up to view and Record!! Inside and Outside.There bars.Alcohol and rowdy people with loud music...yep good fighting conditions there...

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