Leaving aside the fact that the state is still under a death penalty moratorium -- people can be sentenced to death, but the governor will not sign the warrant to carry out the execution -- you begin to wonder if the state will ever be able to carry out another execution with any assurance that it's got the right person.
Attorneys at the state appellate prosecutors office plan to drop the double murder case against a man who spent time on death row for killing a Paris couple, paving the way for his release from prison as soon as Friday. Prosecutors have sent a motion to drop the case against Gordon Randall "Randy" Steidl to Edgar County Judge Dean Andrews, the appellate prosecutors office announced Thursday morning. "Based on the totality of the circumstances, this was the most appropriate choice," special prosecutor David Rands said in a prepared statement. He was in court Thursday and did not immediately return a phone message. [...] Steidl, 52, was convicted of the 1986 murders of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads. The couple were stabbed more than 50 times before their house was set on fire. Steidl was convicted in June 1987 and sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole in 1999 after a state judge ruled his trial attorney had not adequately prepared for the sentencing hearing. Another man, Herbert Whitlock, was convicted separately of killing Karen Rhoads and is serving a life sentence. He has maintained his innocence, and attorney Richard Kling said he was working on an appeal. [...] Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced in March she would not appeal McCuskey's order to retry or release Steidl. The decision by Madigan's office came after a lengthy reinvestigation that included DNA testing on evidence.
Inmate to be freed still suspect, state says
New murder trial not mounted by judge's deadline
By Steve Mills
Chicago Tribune (registration required)
Published May 28, 2004
On the eve of former Death Row prisoner Gordon "Randy" Steidl's release, prosecutors said Thursday he remains a suspect in the 1986 double murders that sent him to prison. "Our action is in no way a declaration of Steidl's innocence...There is no statute of limitations on murder, and Randy Steidl remains a suspect in this case," said David Rands of the state appellate prosecutor's office in Springfield. "He is, of course, presumed innocent until convicted of any new charges."
The prosecutor's statement angered Steidl's lawyers, who have fought since the late 1980s to win his release. They are set to pick him up Friday morning at the Danville Correctional Facility in central Illinois. "The true fact is that Randy walks out of prison tomorrow," said Michael Metnick of Springfield, one of Steidl's attorneys. "The state can give whatever reason they want. But if there was any credible evidence that Randy was guilty, I think there are ways that they could deal with it." [...] The case long has been controversial. An Illinois State Police inquiry completed four years ago concluded that local police botched the investigation so badly that it led to the convictions of innocent men. No physical evidence links Steidl and Whitlock to the murders. The main witnesses against them, both of whom went to police long after the crime, have recanted testimony they gave during the trial. Last year, a federal judge awarded Steidl a new trial, saying his attorney had failed to investigate all the avenues that might have cast doubt on the prosecution's case. He said if all the evidence had been heard at trial, it was "reasonably probable" a jury would have acquitted Steidl. [...] Karen Daniel, an attorney at the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, which also represents Steidl, said the statement was not unexpected. "It's somewhat irresponsible to say they haven't had enough time to investigate the case but to say, without that reinvestigation, that Randy Steidl is a suspect," said Daniel. "Not only have they had time, but they have reinvestigated. They've got to say something that makes it logically possible to keep Herb Whitlock in prison...."
Logically, it really shouldn't be possible to keep Whitlock in prison, assuming that the charges against him were sustained by the same evidence and the same testimony. I wonder what the difference is that seems to be allowing the state to hold on to him. It may well simply be that he didn't file appeals, or didn't file them in time.Posted by iain at May 29, 2004 12:41 AM