At first, convicted murderer Reginald Potts walked into the courtroom Monday in his prison clothes, asking a judge if he could withdraw himself from his own sentencing hearing.
Potts argued he did not want to be photographed and wanted his family to remain out of the spotlight.
But after a debate, Judge Thomas Gainer ordered Potts to “go back and get dressed so your lawyers have a chance to protect your rights.”
A short time later, Potts, who was convicted of murdering 28-year-old Nailah Franklin, returned in his suit and his sentencing hearing began.
In November, a jury found Potts guilty of first-degree murder in the 2007 death of Franklin, a pharmaceutical sales representative who he briefly dated then stalked. The woman's remains were found in a wooded area behind a vacant Calumet City store owned by Potts' brother-in-law. An autopsy determined she'd been asphyxiated.
Potts' lawyers have argued there were too many unanswered questions, including where, when and how she died. They said no physical evidence tied the former real estate investor and father of three to her killing.
Franklin, who casually dated Potts for a few months in 2006 and 2007, had filed a police report about her ex roughly a week before Sept. 18, 2007 — the day she was last seen alive at her University Village condo. Around that time, she also sent her friends an email about Potts’ criminal past, which prosecutors said sent him into a rage.
In a threatening call to the 28-year-old Franklin, Potts told her “he could have her erased,” prosecutors said.
In court Monday, state witnesses testified about Potts’ alleged temper.
“He was verbally abusive,” said Mathew Kiederlen, a former Northern Illinois University police officer who testified about Potts’ 1996 arrest after being banned from the DeKalb school’s campus.
While in custody at Cook County Jail, Potts racked up additional felonies for allegedly beating up sheriff’s deputies and destroying property. Officials said the South Loop man once chewed through three mouthguards that were placed on his face to muzzle his tendency to spit on officers and passersby.
Authorities have also called Potts a career criminal who once slipped out of his handcuffs while in FBI custody.
A retired Cook County State’s attorney told the judge Monday Potts forged a letter from the “divine” claiming to be in the witness protection program in an effort to make his time in jail easier.
Potts is facing natural life in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled to continue this week.