OverviewKirk Zimmerman, 60, was accused of the murder of his former spouse Pamela Zimmerman, 53, in November 2014.
The five-week long trial in Bloomington, IL saw testimony from 60 witnesses from both the prosecution and defense. John Rogers of Rogers Sevastianos and Bante, LLP represented Zimmerman in a case that has attracted national media attention.
Kirk Zimmerman was fully acquitted of the murder charge on May 6, 2019. Read below for a comprehensive look at the case.
Background on the MurderPamela Zimmerman was found dead on November 4, 2014 in her east side Bloomington office where she worked as a certified public accountant and financial planner.
One of the victim’s neighbors, Julie Koh, contacted police at 7:16 a.m. that morning after she received a call from the fiancé of the victim, Scott Baldwin, who was concerned about being unable to reach Zimmerman by phone.
Julie Koh went to Zimmerman’s office to check on her well-being and there met up with the office manager. The two women went inside to find the lights off, blinds closed, and the body of the victim lying on the floor behind the reception desk.
She had suffered four separate gunshot wounds—two in the torso, one in the arm, and one in the head. According to details of the crime scene, the killer may have spent some time after the shooting to search for shell casings of the bullets that fatally wounded her, retrieving all but one shell case and one bullet from the back of a chair in the reception area. Police found these items and were able to determine that the weapon used was a 9 mm handgun, but were subsequently unable to recover the murder weapon itself.
Police believed that whoever killed Pam Zimmerman did not force their way into the office. Furthermore, in the hours after the victim’s body was discovered, police determined that her phone, wallet, and a number of other items taken from the scene had been tossed from a car several blocks away from the office. This is believed to be the loop the killer traveled.
Investigations carried on for months after the murder with no suspect in custody.
Ultimately, Kirk Zimmerman was arrested on July 22, 2015 after complying with officers throughout the investigation. He is the ex-spouse of Pam Zimmerman and, during a five page statement read at Kirk Zimmerman’s first court appearance, the state laid out its theory that he killed his former wife over financial issues.
Pre-Trial DetailsKirk Zimmerman pleaded not guilty and did not seek a plea agreement to resolve the case because he maintained his innocence. John P. Rogers of Rogers Sevastianos and Bante, LLP, a law firm in St. Louis, represented him in the fight for Kirk Zimmerman’s life and freedom. If convicted, he would have faced 45 years to life in prison.
Opening statements for the trial occurred on April 8, 2019— almost four and a half years after the date Pam Zimmerman was killed. Part of the delay in bringing the case to trial came from a series of appeals and motions in which the defense wanted to limit the release of information that could further harm Zimmerman’s ability to secure an unbiased jury.
In addition to the salacious and inflammatory material that is altogether irrelevant to the case, other efforts have been made to suppress evidence unlawfully obtained without a warrant; to bar statements that are considered inadmissible hearsay; and to bar Zimmerman’s statements to police after the death because they were involuntary and the product of coercion.
After denials and approvals of various motions, Judge Scott Drazewski was able to set the trial date for early April 2019.
Trial Kicked Off Beginning of April 2019Jury selection went underway just before the trial date with 42 people questioned over two days— despite many in the public space having already-formed opinions about the case. Two women and ten men were chosen to serve as jurors. Later in the trial, one of the twelve jurors was dismissed for violating a court rule that states you cannot view media accounts of court proceedings.
When the trial began, the 72-seat courtroom in Bloomington had to bring in extra seating to boost the capacity within the room.
The ProsecutionFirst Assistant State’s Attorney Brad Rigdon and assistant state attorneys Aaron Fredrick and Mary Koll opened their case with claims that Kirk Zimmerman was driven to murder after Pam Zimmerman sent her ex-husband a letter with her intention to take him back to court if he did not pay about $3,900 in expenses related to their three teenage children. The couple’s divorce in 2012 was a key element to the state’s case against Kirk Zimmerman.
The testimony for the prosecution began on April 8, 2019 with a total of 43 witnesses. Among these included the Zimmermans’ divorce lawyer, an eyewitness at the scene of the crime, and Julie Koh who found the victim’s body.
More than 100 crime scene photos were reviewed. The state presented evidence on Zimmerman, including: his deleted texts and google searches; his police interview shortly after authorities found the victim; cell tower records of a possible trip to Indiana; and more.
The DefenseJohn Rogers of Rogers Sevastianos and Bante, LLP followed the opening statements of the prosecution by saying it was ridiculous to think that Kirk Zimmerman would kill his former spouse over $3,900 in child support payments. The state’s case, the defense claimed, was largely based on circumstantial evidence surrounding the couple’s divorce, which mirrors what goes on in many other contentious divorce cases.
The testimony for the defense began on April 30, 2019 with a total of 17 witnesses. Among these included two of the Zimmermans’ children, a forensic scientist that disputed the gunshot residue, and a police detective on the scene who said that “there was no physical evidence that [he] recovered that matched Kirk Zimmerman.”
Over the course of the defense case, Rogers challenged issues such as cell tower records, possible contamination of evidence by first responders on the scene, and more. Rogers also drew distinctions between how Bloomington police treated Zimmerman vs. the other possible suspects in the cases—such as the victim’s final client before the murder took place or the victim’s fiancé—neither of which were under the same amount of scrutiny as Zimmerman.
John Rogers was able to bring to the stand an array of experts and investigators who questioned the credibility of the state’s claims.
The Jury Deliberates and Returns ‘Not Guilty’ VerdictAfter five weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated for 7.5 hours over the course of three days at the McLean County Courthouse before returning a verdict of not guilty on Monday, May 6.
“[We] are grateful for all of the hard work that the ladies and gentlemen on this jury did in this case,” said John Rogers to the media shortly after the verdict in the lobby of the Law and Justice Center in Bloomington.
“On behalf of Kirk and his entire family, we would like to say thank you to them. It’s been four long years of being accused of a crime that Kirk didn’t commit, so today is a relief not only for Kirk but for his family.”
Thanks to Rogers’ hard work and relentless defense of his client’s freedom, Zimmerman is now able to walk free and return home to his children.
Watch John Rogers on a primetime episode of ‘Dateline’ NBC this June 17, 2019. For help in your criminal defense case from John Rogers or any of our other seasoned trial veterans, call us at 314-354-8484 or contact us.