UPDATE: Judge allows self-defense argument in Bakana trial, lawyers to plead their cases to jurors Friday

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 11:57 AM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 5:02 PM CDT
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MCLEAN COUNTY (25News Now) - A key ruling came late Thursday afternoon in the trial of Michael Bakana after the jury was sent home.

Judge Casey Costigan decided the defense can argue in closing arguments Friday that Bakana acted in self-defense when he admittedly shot and killed Mariah Petracca and seriously wounded Bibianna Cornejo outside Daddio’s bar in downtown Bloomington in January 2021.

Costigan acknowledged it was an “incredibly close issue” whether there’s any evidence at all of self-defense.

Bakana’s attorney said his client felt the threat of great bodily harm when one of the women spat at Bakana during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but prosecutor David Fitt noted Bakana apparently was not too concerned about getting COVID because he went out to the bars that night without wearing a mask.

Fitt also said Bakana was the aggressor, going to his car for a few minutes after the initial confrontation and coming back to confront the two women again.

Earlier in the day, jurors watched Bakana’s hour-long interview with police that happened just about two hours after the shooting. The video camera also showed Bakana alone in the interrogation room, becoming emotional while waiting for detectives to question him.

Bakana’s hands covered his face, and he repeatedly pounded his knee with his fist.

Several times, he cried out, “No!”

Bakana explained to detectives that he needed a night out on the town to relieve pressure after his father died from COVID a month earlier, and from being inside during COVID lockdowns.

So, Bakana and a friend went out to the bars, with Bakana driving a Mercedes-Benz and wearing what he said was a “beautiful” $900 jacket.

“It was a beautiful night,” he told police.

But, Bakana said the two women he encountered outside Daddio’s that night got too close, and he drew a pistol he carried because American women he encountered tended to be violent.

“I’m not a strong human being,” Bakana said while explaining to police why he had a gun.

Investigators said they found seven bullet casings at the crime scene.

Police who took Bakana to the police department after the shooting said he told them he wanted to die.

Jurors will not have the option of finding Bakana guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder because he has to be in the courtroom to express that wish directly to the judge.

Bakana still remains on the loose after he cut off his GPS ankle monitor in west Normal on Monday.

Bakana forfeited his $200,000 cash bond by not appearing in court.

Early Thursday, Judge Costigan calmed the safety concerns of one of the jurors.

Costigan assured the juror all information would stay sealed and that no jurors would be photographed.

The judge decided to keep the man on the jury, over defense objections.

Closing arguments are scheduled at 9 a.m. Friday.