A former college professor accused of murdering his boyfriend hopes his expertise on the bubonic plague could help him get out of jail.
Wyndham Lathem, 45, asked a judge last week to free him on $1 million bail so that he could put his research skills to use tackling the worldwide pandemic, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In a motion filed by his attorney, Lathem argued that his unique skillset could enable him to provide valuable feedback and included an email voicing support for the idea from Dr. William Goldman, chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina.
“With his background and expertise, Dr. Lathem is well-suited to advise and participate in studies that are aimed at understanding SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic,” Goldman wrote. “It would make sense to take advantage of as many experts as possible during this worldwide crisis that is rapidly expanding in scope.”
Lathem also asked to be released because he believed he was particularly vulnerable to the disease because of his existing health conditions.
Lathem is currently being housed at Cook County Jail, where coronavirus has run rampant among the jailed population and staff.
According to figures from Tuesday obtained by the local paper, 326 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 within the jail, along with 196 correctional officers.
Judge Charles Burns was unmoved by Lathem's argument and denied the motion during an emergency hearing Friday that was conducted via teleconference.
Adam Sheppard, Lathem’s attorney, told The Sun-Times his client was disappointed by the judge's decision. Lathem has already begun to experience mild coronavirus symptoms, he contended.
“We are deeply concerned about his health,” he told the paper. “He had been hopeful that he might get out [on bond], but he was not overly optimistic.”
Lathem, a former professor at Northwestern University, is accused of stabbing his 26-year-old boyfriend Trenton Cornell-Duranleau to death while the man was sleeping in Lathem’s apartment, according to The Daily Northwestern.
Former Oxford University employee Andrew Warren was also charged with the crime, the Associated Press reports. The two had allegedly planned the attack for months through a series of email exchanges.
Warren admitted to his role in the killing and agreed to a 45-year prison sentence last year in exchange for testimony against Lathem.
Before his arrest, Lathem had been considered a bubonic plague expert and had even been granted “select agent” clearance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The special clearance allowed him to study some of the world’s deadliest pathogens in his lab.
Lathem was fired from his post as an associate professor of microbiology-immulogy at Northwestern following his arrest.
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