[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IND., MISS., NEV., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 8 16:50:46 CST 2005
People change: Reflections on death row and friendship
I came to know Donald Ray Wallace Jr. 10 years ago, when I first visited
death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. During my 1st days
as a volunteer chaplain there, I realized my relationship to the men on
death row would both challenge and change me. My friendship with Don
Wallace proves to do both.
One of the 1st times I came to Don's cell, at the end of a long row of
cells, I saw a small, handwritten sign hanging on the bars. It read:
"Fasting. No food. No conversation." I recall walking away shocked. Who
was this man who took days to fast and pray? Who was this man who took his
inner life so seriously? Don treated his life on death row like a monastic
life. And the more deeply he dove into silence and its gifts, the more
deeply he changed.
Don Wallace was one of death row's longest residents, and during his years
there, as all of us do, he changed. On death row, while some become angry
or unstable, Don Wallace became holy. He spent long hours reading,
meditating, drawing, and when he could, playing a guitar. When I met Don,
he was not the young, foolish, addicted person he had been many years
Time does things to people. Its effects are never the same from person to
person, but time always changes people. And time brought many good changes
in Don Wallace.
When Don landed on death row, he experienced silence and its spiritual
potential. With long hours of solitude, Don developed into a person who
loved silence and could learn from it. His reading caused him to ask hard
questions of himself and others. His meditation forced him to wrestle with
difficult questions and it gave him an appetite for real answers, not
When Don and I spoke, I would lean against the bars outside his cell, he
would lean against the bars from the inside. We discussed many topics
including, politics, faith, Irish history and music. But the most profound
conversations were about the Psalms. Don immersed himself in the Psalms.
The ancient poem-prayers of Jews and Christians became dear to him.
He read them aloud, sometimes in English, sometimes in Latin. He read them
slowly, stopping to meditate on one word or line. He loved their sounds
and images. He loved that they launched him toward his own meditations.
And you could see, over time, the Psalms having their desired effect on
him. They slowed him down. They helped him become a peaceful, patient
Don is a man who allows things to emerge, rather than thinking he has to
demand things. His patience, his willingness to be still, taught me a
valuable lesson that I'm still trying to heed: Go slowly. In time, things
unfold and become what they truly are. This is certainly the case with Don
During my years in Indiana, I often visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, a
monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky. When visiting there, I often thought
of Don. Occasionally, I sent him a monastery postcard. A photo of the
plain stone church, a photo of a monk sitting beneath a tree in silence --
these scenes always reminded me of Don. Had his earlier life been
different, kinder perhaps, he might have ended up in a place like
Gethsemani. The monk's cell, while unlike a Death Row cell, is not totally
different. Not for Don. He turned his prison life into a pilgrimage toward
what really matters in life.
This is the man the state of Indiana executes this week. A man who is
nothing like the one who committed an awful crime so many years ago. Don
Wallace changed. He is not the young, dangerous kid he once was.
Because of this, the lies inherent in Indiana's death penalty are exposed.
People will be no safer with his execution. No one will be deterred from a
future crime because of Don's execution on Wednesday night. And any
governor, former governor, or state representative who tells you so is
lying. And they know it.
This is one of the many tragedies built into the death penalty -- it
ignores change. It forever labels a person, according to one act he might
have committed. And as we all know, none of us is our past. We change. If
we're lucky and holy, we change a lot.
In this, Don Wallace proves to us something about the goodness of life. He
changed. He became peaceful, kind and loving. If only the laws of Indiana
could do the same.
In 1980, Wallace broke into the home of an Evansville couple to commit a
burglary. He killed the couple and their 2 young children. Wallace is
scheduled to be executed Wednesday.
(source: South Bend Tribune - Joseph Ross directs the Writing Center at
Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., and teaches writing
part-time at Montgomery College. He lives in Silver Springs, Md. He lived
in South Bend from 1985 to 2000, when he became acquainted with Donald Ray
Court to rule on legal aid for poor--Justices to decide if state should
pay for indigent defense cases
Mississippi Supreme Court justices will decide whether the state should
pay for hiring lawyers for poor criminal defendants like the two men on
death row for killing a Quitman County farm family.
The indigent defense case is among dozens the Supreme Court will decide
this term using briefs submitted by attorneys.
In 2003, Quitman County unsuccessfully took the state to court over the
issue. Circuit Judge Ann Lamar, who presided over the case, said in her
November 2003 ruling that she would not declare unconstitutional a state
law requiring local governments to pay for indigent defense.
"This court cannot say that this is one of those rare occasions when the
court should exercise its inherent power and ... order the Legislature to
establish a statewide, state-funded system of indigent defense," Lamar
Quitman County sued the state in 1999 after it was forced to borrow
several hundred thousand dollars in the early 1990s to defend two men
convicted of killing county resident Carl "Bubba" Parker, his wife Bobbie
Jo and their 2 children.
Attorneys for the county argued that having counties form and pay for
their own indigent defense systems was a violation of the state's
Chris Klotz of Jackson, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in the appeal,
said the issue goes beyond the high-profile cases such as the Parker
"When you talk about an issue that involves the most fundamental of
constitutional rights, every single case where there is an injustice to
somebody ... impacts everyone else in society," Klotz said.
"It's not just the high-profile cases that need attention. It's the cases
where everyday working people are not having their rights protected in
court because a county might not be able to afford to fund a public
defender system," he said.
Lamar said in her ruling the Quitman County plaintiffs never proved their
main points: that the county's 2 part-time public defenders were
overburdened and gave their clients poor representation because of a bad
A statewide program, which would have placed a public defender in each
Circuit Court district, was first proposed in 1995 at an estimated cost of
$11 million. Legislative leaders called it too expensive and have not
Plaintiffs' attorneys have argued the Legislature's failure to fund a
program shows why the court needs to act. They have argued the state was
in violation of the U.S. Constitution by not providing defendants
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Clarence Earl Gideon
that the right to counsel in criminal cases was necessary to achieve a
fair system of justice. In his initial trial, Gideon represented himself
because he could not afford an attorney. After his conviction was
overturned, he was retried and his appointed attorney discovered new
witnesses and won an acquittal.
In 2004, 22 states directly funded indigent defense services, according to
The National Law Journal.
"I think sometimes it's hard for individual legislators to prioritize this
above other things," Klotz said, "and sometimes the court needs to step in
and tell them, 'Our constitution says this is a priority and you need to
Klotz said the taxpayers of Quitman County were burdened with the expense
of the Parker case only "because out of pure happenstance ... had to bear
the cost of the whole case."
The attorney general's office had no immediate comment on the appeal.
However, the state has maintained Quitman County was not seeking relief
for poor defendants but relief for its taxpayers.
In most Mississippi counties, public defenders are private attorneys who
are under contract to take on indigent cases part time. The lawyers often
have too many clients and are usually paid a flat fee.
Public defender systems are not perfect, proponents argue. The ideal would
be for the number of public defenders to equal the number of prosecutors,
but that doesn't happen, they say.
The state argued Mississippi law does not require public defenders be
full-time or hire investigators or have assistants. The attorney general's
office said Quitman County's system meets the minimum requirements in the
law and public defenders do a good job.
(source: Associated Press)
Nevada Assembly votes to abolish death penalty for juveniles
The Nevada Assembly voted 40-1 Tuesday to abolish the death penalty for
killers who commit capital crimes as minors, a week after the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled executions in such cases amount to cruel and unusual
The ban is intended "to clean up our statutes to make sure we're in
compliance with the Supreme Court ruling," said Assemblywoman Chris
Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, who has led two efforts in previous
legislative sessions to ban executions by injection in Nevada for juvenile
Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, cast the lone "no" vote on
AB6, now moving to the Senate for final action. Marvel said he believes
the death penalty is sometimes appropriate for juvenile murderers. But
that's not why he voted against it, he said.
"I don't like the Supreme Court making laws for the state of Nevada," he
Nevada was 1 of 19 states that allowed prosecutors to seek the death
penalty for juveniles when the ruling was issued last week. The court
spared the lives of 72 death row inmates across the country, including one
Giunchigliani said that recent scientific evidence has proven that
juveniles don't have the same capacity as adults to understand
consequences, learn from mistakes and control impulses. She said they
shouldn't be held to the same standard of culpability.
Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said the
"stark reality" that can't be ignored is that the United States has stood
almost alone in the world in officially sanctioning juvenile executions.
Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few
other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.
The ruling has had the biggest impact in Texas, where 28 juvenile
offenders were on death row. Lawmakers there also are working on
legislation to bring that state's law in line with the high court's
(source: Associated Press)
Cop: Police brass blocked murder probe----Investigator was looking at
donor to ex-Gov. Ryan
An Illinois State Police lieutenant says he was stopped from investigating
the possible involvement of a Downstate businessman in a double homicide
because the man had made significant political donations.
The lieutenant does not allege wrongdoing by the politician, former Gov.
George Ryan, whose campaign fund received the businessman's donations.
But he alleges that state police brass were guided by fear of political
reprisals, even in an investigation with the highest possible stakes--a
death penalty murder case.
The charges contained in a sworn affidavit are the latest twist in a
nearly 20-year-old double-murder in Paris, Ill. 2 men once stood convicted
of those killings;. One of them men spent time on death row before being
freed; the other is seeking a new trial.
At the request of superiors, in April 2000 state police Lt. Michale
Callahan began to re-examine the murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads,
newlyweds brutally slain 14 years earlier in Paris, a rural community
about 20 miles from Terre Haute, Ind.
Callahan quickly concluded that the 2 men then in prison for the crime
probably were innocent and he issued a memo that named the businessman as
a "person of interest."
In the affidavit, Callahan said he and his colleagues were preparing to
launch a full-scale investigation of the businessman in May 2000. But his
superiors put the brakes on the investigation when they found out that the
businessman, his businesses and relatives had donated tens of thousands of
dollars to Ryan's campaign fund, the affidavit states.
In late May 2000, Callahan continued to press the issue with his
superiors. One of them "advised us we could not look into the Rhoads
homicide in any way because the matter was 'too politically sensitive,'"
the affidavit states.
In January 2001, under a new immediate supervisor, Callahan tried to press
the issue again. Their supervisor then stated: "Just so I am perfectly
understood here, this case is too politically sensitive and that comes
from above. Am I understood?" according to the affidavit.
Callahan made the allegation last month in a federal court affidavit filed
in his own lawsuit against the state police. Callahan alleges that he was
demoted because he pressed ahead with the investigation of the
In a sworn deposition taken by Callahan's attorneys, his police supervisor
denied impeding the investigation, said John A. Baker, Callahan's lawyer.
In the court file is one document outlining Callahan's allegations, where
the supervisor wrote "lie" next to the alleged statement, he said.
2 other state police supervisors who oversaw Callahan's work also denied
the allegations, Baker said.
But 3 other state police personnel, two of whom held higher rank than
Callahan, backed his claims in their depositions, he said.
Illinois State Police Lt. Lincoln Hampton referred all inquiries to
Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan's office, which is representing the three
police officers named in Callahan's suit. Melissa Merz, Madigan's
spokeswoman, declined comment.
Callahan, a 24-year state police veteran nearing retirement, alleged he
was demoted because he persisted in the investigation and brought
allegations against a supervisor to the state police's Internal
Investigations Division after his work on the case was thwarted.
The state has said the transfer of Callahan from an investigations
supervisor to a patrol supervisor was a lateral move that was not
The Rhoadses were stabbed to death on July 6, 1986, in their home, which
was then set on fire.
In early 1987 separate Downstate juries convicted former drinking buddies
Gordon "Randy" Steidl and Herb Whitlock of the murders. Steidl was
sentenced to death, and Whitlock was given life without parole.
No physical evidence implicated either Whitlock or Steidl, both of whom
had gone to the FBI shortly before the killings to report corruption,
gambling and drug dealing in Paris.
The two key witnesses have since changed their stories several times.
Steidl, who spent more than 17 years in prison--12 on death row--was
released last May. A federal judge had ordered a new trial in his case and
prosecutors dropped the charges rather than proceed.
Whitlock remains behind bars. He is seeking a new trial.
The appellate prosecutor's office continues to fight Whitlock's release
and has said Steidl remains a suspect.
Michael Metnick, the defense attorney for Steidl, said the affidavit
confirms some of the facts he learned. "I'd love to see a U.S. Department
of Justice study" of the case, Metnick said.
The federal decision that led to Steidl's release was based in part on the
work of Bill Clutter, an investigator for Metnick. It was Clutter's work,
some of which was sent to the state police, that triggered Callahan's
involvement in April 2000.
Callahan's affidavit is the 1st public document to detail his
conclusions--and the alleged backlash against them.
As soon as he was assigned to the case, Callahan received 3 unsolicited
calls. One came from a state police lieutenant who suggested he
"essentially rubber stamp" the state police findings from the initial
investigation in 1986 and 1987 that led to the convictions of Steidl and
Whitlock, according to the affidavit.
A retired police officer called Callahan to ask him "not to make us old
guys look bad," and another "wanted me to know that he was not a dirty
cop," the affidavit stated.
Despite the pressure to endorse early state police findings, Callahan
issued a memo in early May of 2000 that pointed out dozens of faults with
the initial investigation and trial. He pointed to "other viable
suspects," including the Downstate businessman.
Karen Rhoads had a professional relationship with the businessman. She
once told a friend she saw him put a machine gun and bags of money into
his car, according to police reports.
In an interview Monday with the Tribune, the businessman denied the
incident and involvement in any criminal activity. "We didn't do anything
wrong," he said.
The businessman said he was aware that investigators were watching him.
Callahan's memo was sent to then-Illinois Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan's office,
which determined it could not review the matter because the businessman
had given $2,500 to Jim Ryan's campaign fund.
In January 2001, Callahan had a new immediate state police supervisor,
Major Edie Casella, who wanted him to pursue the case. But in April, their
supervisor told Callahan he "could not go there" and made the comment
about being understood, the affidavit states.
In October 2001, Casella "was removed from her position for no apparent
reason," the affidavit states. Casella declined to comment Monday.
In April 2003, Callahan took allegations about his new immediate
supervisor to the state police internal affairs division. He alleged that
the supervisor had undermined a federal, state and local task force set up
earlier in the year to investigate the businessman.
2 months later, Callahan was transferred from his post as an
investigations commander to patrol commander, a move he considered a
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Case messier than ever; who cleans it up?
The long-simmering cauldron of putrid ooze that is the prosecution of
Randy Steidl and Herbert Whitlock has at last boiled over.
As outlined in my colleague Hal Dardick's Page 1 article today, 24-year
veteran Illinois State Police Lt. Mike Callahan, the former leader of a
multiagency reinvestigation of the case, has issued a raft of specific and
damning allegations against state police higher-ups in a 134-page
memorandum and other documents filed recently in federal court.
To boil 134 pages down to 134 words,
Prosecutors and investigators conspired to conceal evidence and otherwise
frame Steidl and Whitlock for the 1986 murders of newlyweds Dyke and Karen
Rhoads in downstate Paris. In early 2000--as private investigators,
journalists and defense lawyers were exposing weaknesses in the evidence
and asking questions about the failure of authorities to investigate
possible links to a prominent local businessman and big contributor to
then-Gov. George Ryan--Callahan was tapped to lead a review of the
evidence. But his supervisors almost immediately began waving him off and
telling him to quit sleuthing because the case was "too politically
sensitive." They continued to discourage him even after his digging showed
the case against Steidl and Whitlock was as unsustainable as critics were
charging. When he refused to back down, state police supervisors demoted
and reassigned him.
Callahan, 50, names names and cites corroborating testimony in the
depositions of several other state police investigators. These fellow
officers confirmed under oath Callahan's accounts of meetings with balky
supervisors who, they said, seemed far more interested in defending what
had been done than correcting any mistakes.
These supervisors have denied Callahan's allegations in their depositions,
but state police officials did not respond to requests for comment. A
spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said the issues raised in
Callahan's wrongful-demotion suit, which the AG's office is fighting, are
independent from the issues raised in the criminal case. But if what
Callahan and his allies on the force say is true--still a question for the
courts--it amounts to a huge and even frightening scandal that suggests a
cynical dereliction of duty inside the state police hierarchy at best, a
high-level conspiracy to obstruct justice at worst.
It would be nice to say such an allegation from respected law enforcement
professionals is unprecedented in the annals of Illinois justice. But it's
Callahan's insider critique of the Rhoads case contains many echoes of the
insider critiques of the 1983 Jeanine Nicarico case that were offered by
DuPage County Sheriff's Detective John Sam, Assistant Atty. Gen. Mary
Brigid Kenney and Illinois State Police Cmdr. Ed Cisowski.
Sam, Kenney and Cisowski publicly challenged the acts and decisions of
those behind the prosecution of Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez, who were
sent to Death Row for the Nicarico murder. Their apostasy was vindicated
when the pair were later freed.
Callahan, who will not speak to the media until he retires from the state
police later this month, has already won partial vindication: A federal
judge ruled in 2003 that Steidl's "acquittal was reasonably probable if
the jury had heard all of the evidence," and Steidl was released from
prison last May after Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan refused to attempt to retry
Steidl and Whitlock, now 59 and serving a life sentence at Lawrence
Correctional Center in downstate Sumner, were convicted almost entirely on
the same evidence--the far-fetched, contradictory and ever-changing
accounts of a notorious alcoholic and an admitted drug addict, both of
whom claimed several months after the crime to have witnessed Steidl and
Whitlock butchering the Rhoads couple.
Whitlock's next court hearing in his fight for a new trial is March 21,
and if state appellate prosecutors continue to object in light of
Callahan's powerful statements, they'll officially become part of the
Make no mistake. Nearly 19 years after the fact, this case is now a bigger
mess than it's ever been. State police officials are the subject of very
serious allegations of misconduct, and the attorney general's office is
representing the state police against the man leveling those allegations.
Who will step in to clean it up?
(source: Column, Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune)
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