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Peterson attorney defending Aurora man charged with killing Elgin boy

Miguel Hernandez Jr. | Phofrom Elgpolice

Miguel Hernandez Jr. | Photo from Elgin police

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:27AM

ROLLING MEADOWS — Trading of information between the defense and the prosecution continues as the criminal case against Miguel Hernandez Jr., the Aurora man accused of shooting to death a 5-year-old boy on Elgin’s northeast side, moves toward what is likely to be a trial sometime this year.

And Hernandez is now being represented by one of the defense lawyers who took part in the high-profile Drew Peterson murder case.

During a hearing Thursday in the Cook County Circuit Court in Rolling Meadows, attorneys for each side filed further answers to requests for information about each others’ evidence and witnesses. Judge Kay Hanlon scheduled another hearing for April 8 to hear some defense motions.

Asked whether there is a chance that the case could end in a plea agreement as most felony cases do, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney David Weiner said, “If they approach us, we would consider that. But when there are the type of potential penalties that are involved here, cases like this usually go to trial.”

Hernandez is accused of pumping about a half-dozen gunshots into a car filled with members of the Eric Galarza family as it backed out of the driveway of the family’s Elgin home in October 2011. Although prosecutors and police have been mum about the exact motive involved, they believe the shooting’s true target was Eric Galarza Sr., a member of the same street gang as Hernandez.

Most of the bullets missed, but one struck the head of Galarza’s 5-year-old son, Eric Galarza Jr. The boy died a few hours later.

If convicted of all charges, Hernandez faces a minimum 20-year sentence for first-degree murder, plus possible additional years for using a gun in the crime and for attempting to murder Galarza Sr.

Hernandez is now being represented by Chicago attorneys Ralph Meczyk and Marc Martin. Judge Hanlon ruled a year ago that Elgin criminal lawyer Liam Dixon was ineligible to represent Hernandez because Dixon had represented Eric Galarza Sr. in a gang-shooting case in 2000.

Meczyk was one of the lawyers who unsuccessfully defended Drew Peterson in his recent Will County murder trial.

Galarza Sr. was sentenced to four years in prison last month after pleading guilty to the brutal beating of a man in the Cadillac Ranch nightclub in Bartlett and to jumping bond in that case last June. He was a fugitive for five months until he was found in November by U.S. marshals in San Antonio, Texas.

Galarza Sr. also faces Kane County charges that he beat his wife, the dead boy’s mother, and threatened her with a gun while they were driving in a car through Wayne last summer.

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