Criminal Justice

Another Exoneration

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Meet Herb Whitlock, freed after doing 21 yeas for a double murder he didn't commit.

A couple of hours later, after his family bought jeans that fit him, he arrived at a Paris banquet hall, grinning broadly to the applause of dozens of well-wishers.

They included retired Illinois State Police Lt. Michale Callahan, who eight years earlier concluded that Whitlock and his former drinking buddy and co-defendant, Gordon "Randy" Steidl, were innocent. Also, there was private investigator Bill Clutter. Sixteen years earlier, he turned up much of the evidence that freed Steidl and Whitlock.

"This whole case is a travesty, 21 years of deceit and cover-up," Callahan said after seeing Whitlock freed. "I think this should be an example that this can happen to anyone in this country if government is allowed to go unchecked."

[…]

Wrongful-prosecution experts long have said Whitlock and Steidl were railroaded in a miscarriage of justice based on the testimony of two lying, substance-abusing witnesses, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories. No physical evidence implicated Whitlock and Steidl in the crime.

Callahan identified other potential suspects in the case and later won a civil suit against his superiors, alleging they reassigned him to less-prestigious duties in retaliation for accusing them of thwarting his effort to follow leads he developed.

Whitlock missed the death of his mother and father. And of course, the families of the two victims now have to face the possibility that their killer(s) were never brought to justice.

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  1. I’ll say this for the person (JsubD?) who swore off swearing:

    FUCK!

  2. W T F ?
    Wrongful-prosecution experts long have said Whitlock and Steidl were railroaded in a miscarriage of justice based on the testimony of two lying, substance-abusing witnesses, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories. No physical evidence implicated Whitlock and Steidl in the crime.

    So how were they able to sway a jury with such flimsy evidence? How did they even make it past arraignment?

  3. Why do I have the forboding feeling that, by this time next week,
    Whitlock will have been gunned down in a SWAT raid gone bad?

  4. “We don’t really have any good evidence against these guys.”

    “So?”

  5. Another (isolated) exoneration.

  6. I’m pleased as punch that he’s free, I’m mad as hell he was ever convicted, I’m pissed as fuck that it took 16 years to get him freed, but this:

    Whitlock, 61, who was convicted more than two decades ago in the central Illinois murders of newlyweds Karen and Dyke Rhoads, went free.

    …made me laugh my ass off.

  7. the style,

    There’s an exit off of I-5 South headed toward Oregon from Washington for Dike Access Road.

    Somewhere after Tillicum, I think.

    No relation, no point, just brought that thought to my head.

    Oh, and fuck everybody who put this guy in jail.

  8. I hope I get 21 yeas when I finally snap.

  9. They included retired Illinois State Police Lt. Michale Callahan

    Just when I’m ready to conclude ther are NO honest cops, this article appears. It doesn’t restore my faith in the LEO community, but I give credit where it’s due.

    BZ, Lt. Callahan. I hope you were justly rewarded by your lawsuit.

    Will somebody in Illinois, please give Herb Whitlock a job with opportunities?

  10. Oh, he’s 61.

    Illinois, please give Herb Whitlock a substantial sum of cash so he can enjoy his golden years. It’s the least you can do. Take it out of the evil/incompetent cops’ and prosecutors’ retirement checks. Y’know, those that railroaded him.

  11. Upper Manhattan has the corner of Dykeman St. and Seaman Ave.

  12. “””So how were they able to sway a jury with such flimsy evidence? How did they even make it past arraignment?”””

    Arraignment is a simple guilty or not guilty. I’ve seen judges get really pissed of if anything else comes out of your mouth during arraignment.

    Swaying the jury may depend on the judges instructions to the jury. They are humans so sometimes reason and logic are absent and the guy just looked guilty.

  13. Paris, Illinois. In case anyone else was wondering.

  14. I’m imagining the jurors where hectored with overbearing emotional arguments. It’s not that hard to get people to overlook the evidence in favor of emotional outrage. Especially in a small town where they were prejudiced by weeks of pre-trial whispering. All it takes is a naive faith in the innate goodness of the police and prosecutors.

    I wonder how any jurors feel now. If it were me I would be devastated at ruining a human life. How can you possibly make good on such a horrible mistake?

  15. Upper Manhattan has the corner of Dykeman St. and Seaman Ave.

    I think women and seamen don’t mix.

  16. So how were they able to sway a jury with such flimsy evidence?

    Have you ever read any trial transcripts? You should sometime. Just pick a few random ones, cases you go into knowing nothing at all about, and try to spot the evidence juries heard. Finding any is unusual.

    A trial is a guilty verdict.

  17. This only demonstrates my point when I told some of my ‘conservative’ friends when I said that the death penalty is the most statist policy one could possibly have…

  18. A trial is a guilty verdict.

    After all, they wouldn’t have been arrested if they weren’t doing something wrong.

  19. Swaying the jury may depend on the judges instructions to the jury. They are humans so sometimes reason and logic are absent and the guy just looked guilty.

    Those gangbangers must have let the tiger out of its cage. An empty vodka was found in their car. And a witness reported that one of them had roared in the general direction of one of the lions on that very same day!

  20. Wrongful-prosecution experts long have said Whitlock and Steidl were railroaded in a miscarriage of justice based on the testimony of two lying, substance-abusing witnesses, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories.

    Amazing. If any of us have to testify for ourselves we get nailed for any inconsistency. Drugged-out prosecution witnesses earn favors by giving DAs options on what testimony they want to use.

    But the prosecutor’s win/loss ratio looks good.

  21. Why do the prosecutors in these cases almost always say the matter is still under investigation and that the released prisoner isn’t “cleared”? The cynical part of me would say this is a “well, we can’t keep him in jail, so we’ll keep him in a mental prison the rest of his life”.

    Of course, thanks to you Radley, that cynical part of me is most of my being.

  22. What no one really talks about is reforming the system that gets these guilty verdicts in the first place. I’m a strong supporter in both sentencing reform, and reform of how prosecutors conduct cases. The exact details of how this would go is somewhat of a mystery to me, I must admit.

    Death penalty or no, we’re putting people away for decades on the “paid” eye-witness testimony of unsavory characters who are often on their way to prison, or already there.

    I say “paid” testimony because when you offer someone else leniency in their sentencing, they’ll probably say anything. And when all you have is someone’s word, and no physical evidence whatsoever, this poses massive problems.

    This may also say something about the quality of his defense.

  23. I think there shoudl be compensation of $100,000 or more for every year an innocent man spends in prison, and the prosecutor in that case shoudl be reviewd and suspended or fined if there is intentional negligence…

    Prosecutors are some of the biggest aholes ever, they are out there trying to make a name for themselves instead of actually determining if they are going after the right guy, anyone who has seen the nancy grace show, knows what i am talking about…

  24. Holy fuck. I can’t even remember what I was doing 21 years ago.

    They’re going to publicly stone everyone involved in perpetrating this travesty, right?

  25. And when all you have is someone’s word, and no physical evidence whatsoever, this poses massive problems.

    Agreed. In spite of all of the bad press over the years, circumstantial evidence is probably the most reliable in determining guilt. Eyewitnesses unreliabilty is well documented. e.g. all of the anal probing aliens visiting our planet.

  26. Holy fuck. I can’t even remember what I was doing 21 years ago.

    They’re going to publicly stone everyone involved in perpetrating this travesty, right?

    A valid point. HOWEVER, the criminal justice system has no qualms about prosecuting 21 year old crimes, and getting convictions. Goose – gander.

  27. “I think this should be an example that this can happen to anyone in this country if government is allowed to go unchecked.”

    About that… there is little chance now of government being checked… now that everybody’s jumping ship due to some old newsletter…

  28. Until you have a problem with people trying to get themselves wrongfully convicted so they can sue, the compensation for wrongful time-served isn’t high enough.

  29. all of the anal probing aliens visiting our planet.

    I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

  30. I’m imagining the jurors where hectored with overbearing emotional arguments. It’s not that hard to get people to overlook the evidence in favor of emotional outrage. Especially in a small town where they were prejudiced by weeks of pre-trial whispering. All it takes is a naive faith in the innate goodness of the police and prosecutors.

    I grew up somewhat near Paris Illinois and I am pretty sure this is what happened. Especially the pre-trial whispering.

    In the area around Paris, I’m talking about 10 counties, there are very few murders. Sometimes none at all in a given year. So a crime like this is very shocking. If the police say this is the guy who did it, it must be true since a vast majority of the people living in the area have never had a negative experience with the police nor have they ever read anything about any local police department being corrupt (unlike the big scary city to the north: Chicago).

  31. Oh, btw, as I have said in other posts, I am still pro-death penalty. Just not in the state of Illinois.

    The State of Illinois has displayed its obvious incompetence in this matter for far too many times.

  32. From the Innocence Project, here is the summary of Illinois compensation law:

    Since 1945, any person with a pardon of innocence has been eligible for a total of up to $15,000 for 5 years, $30,000 for 14 years, and $35,000 for more than 14 years, with a cost-of-living adjusted increase for every year since 1945.

    Read the statute: Ill Rev Stat ch. 705 ? 505/8

  33. Lurker Kurt | January 11, 2008, 4:15pm | #

    Oh, btw, as I have said in other posts, I am still pro-death penalty. Just not in the state of Illinois.

    The State of Illinois has displayed its obvious incompetence in this matter for far too many times.

    In principle, I support the death penalty – not so much as to punish the culprit as to remove the danger from society.* However, the simple fact is that there is not any way to guarantee that an innocent person will not be executed.

    I cannot speak of the particular situation in Illinois, but I doubt the rest of the world is much better.

  34. However, the simple fact is that there is not any way to guarantee that an innocent person will not be executed.

    Or spends 21 years in a hellhole.

  35. I cannot speak of the particular situation in Illinois, but I doubt the rest of the world is much better.

    IIRC, there were 13 people on death row in Illinios, 7 of them were later found to be innocent.

    The resulting uproar motivated our then govenor to place a moratorium on executions in Illinois.

    The sad thing is those 7 probably would still be in jail if they were ‘merely’ sentenced to life. I wonder how many other innocents were wrongly convicted.

    Damn, now I am starting to sound like a weepy liberal.

    Well, on the bright side, at least Illinios took care of John Wayne Gacy.

  36. “IIRC, there were 13 people on death row in Illinios, 7 of them were later found to be innocent”

    As an Illinois taxpayer, I can say “not quite”. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the late 70’s there have been many, many people sentenced to death, 12 (or was it 13?) executions and 13 condemned men exonerated. Gov Ryan (now doing time in federal prison for corruption) commuted all death penalties when at the end of his term.

    In more Illinois crime/punishment news, here’s a story from Friday’s Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-council_10jan10,0,3556202.story

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