In 2012, Christopher Vaughn was convicted for the murder of his wife and three children. The court sentenced him to four consecutive terms of life imprisonment. Upon appeal in 2015, Vaughn received the same answer – that he is guilty. But now, seven years after his conviction, Vaughn’s case reopens with new efforts to prove his innocence and restore his freedom.
Vaughn Complaint: Prosecution Lied To Grand Jury
The complaint Keith Altman has filed on behalf of Gail and Pierre Vaughn is based on newly discovered prosecutorial misconduct surrounding Christopher Vaughn’s indictment.
On June 14, 2007 at 5:00AM, Vaughn and his family left for the waterpark. While on the road, Vaughn’s wife told him she was not feeling well. At the time, she was taking medication that could cause upset stomach. Instead of stopping at a rest stop, Vaughn’s wife asked him to pull over in a secluded, wooded area on the side of the road. Vaughn got out of the car to re-secure their luggage carrier. When he returned to his driver’s seat, he noticed his leg was bleeding. Vaughn left his car in search of someone to help him.
At 5:15AM, the local police were dispatched to the scene. According to the testimony of the police officers and the paramedics, Vaughn showed no emotion when they found him, during his treatment, and upon his release. He suffered only nonlife-threatening injuries. The officers on the scene discovered Vaughn’s SUV nearby with his family inside. Vaughn’s wife and three children had all suffered fatal gunshot wounds.
Officers further testified that they viewed Vaughn as suspicious due to his unexpected emotional response (or rather lack thereof) to hearing about his family. In trial, the State used his lack of “appropriate” emotion as evidence against Vaughn to bolster their argument of Vaughn’s guilt.
Bill Clutter, a longtime investigator on Vaughn’s case, first tapped Keith Altman as an expert for Vaughn’s initial defense team which was dismantled in 2011 when Capital Litigation funds were abolished in Illinois. Vaughn was left with a public defender who had little time to prepare for his 2012 trial. After Chris was convicted, Clutter continued to work diligently on the case. In 2013, he founded the organization Investigating Innocence to help Vaughn and others wrongfully convicted. Like Keith Altman, Clutter has maintained Chris was convicted due to an unfortunate combination of tunnel vision and confirmation bias.
Chris’ case gained nationwide attention in 2021 when iHeart released the Murder in Illinois podcast for which both Clutter and Altman were interviewed. The series rose to the top of the podcast charts, invigorating support for Chris Vaughn and his tireless advocates, parents Gail and Pierre. Frustrated by the subsequent lack of legal momentum in the case, Keith Altman and his team stepped forward to take up the torch from Clutter and represent Christopher with one goal: to see that justice is finally served.
The fight for truth continues as the case of Christopher Vaughn enters a new phase. At the core of this fight lie questions about justice, prosecutorial integrity, and the boldness that surround the emotional responses to trauma. Regardless of the outcome, the persistent efforts by Gail, Pierre, Bill Clutter, and Keith Altman in this case show the never-ending hope for truth, for justice, and for a system where every conviction is indeed beyond a reasonable doubt. They're reminders that our legal system, as strong as it might be, is still an establishment created by humans, subject to errors and biases. While the struggle for Vaughn's freedom moves forward, one can only hope that this case will awareness on the importance of unbiased, and diligent legal systems.