Sunday, April 11, 2010

Meet the Should Be Exonerated: Illinois's Death Row, Part Three

Tonight, I watched the episode, Newlywed Murders, on Investigation Discovery's On the Case with Paula Zahn which focused on the 1986 double murder of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads, and the wrongful conviction of Randy Steidl (left) who was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death within 90 days for the double murder. He spent a total of 17 years in jail, 12 of those on death row.

The murdered newlyweds were married in 1986 and later that year, were found stabbed to death in their home. Believing that the crime was the result of a drug deal gone wrong, detectives arrested and charged Herb Whitlock, who received a life sentence, and Randy Steidl with the double murder.

An investigation by Illinois State police proved that local law enforcement and prosecutors had framed Randy and co-defendant Herbert Whitlock. Ironically, Randy's brother, Rory was an Illinois policeman of 25 years.

In 2003, federal judge Michael McCuskey overturned Randy's conviction and ordered a new trial, stating that if the proper evidence had been originally investigated and presented it was "reasonably probable" that Randy would have been acquitted by the jury. The state re- investigated the case, tested DNA evidence, and found no link to Randy.

On May 28, 2004 – after 17 years, 3 months and 3 weeks of wrongful imprisonment – Randy was released, but never received a pardon or compensation, despite being brutally robbed of the majority of his adult life.

Randy became the 18th person to be freed because of a wrongful conviction after serving time on the state's death row since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Today, Randy seeks to become more active in the movement against the death penalty as he believes that "one innocent life lost by execution is not worth ten guilty persons being executed."

The Center On Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's School of Law has been working for nearly ten years to help people understand why the innocent sometimes get sent to jail and to work toward reforming a system that allows it to happen. A new part of their mission is to help the exonerated so they can clear their records and start anew.

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