Center on Wrongful Convictions asks Quinn to pardon former death row inmate

Joseph Diebold, Campus Editor

The Center on Wrongful Convictions on Wednesday asked Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to pardon a former death row inmate whose conviction was overturned in 2004.

Attorneys from the center, which operates as part of the Northwestern School of Law, wrote an open letter to Quinn calling on him to act on the innocence pardon petition of Randy Steidl, whose 2002 petition is the oldest awaiting executive action.

“Governor Quinn, this matter has lingered for far too long. Please do the right thing now, and allow this innocent man to clear his good name,” Steidl’s attorneys wrote in the letter. “At a bare minimum, please do Randy the honor of sitting down with him, face to face, and explain to him why you have decided so many other pardon petitions during your tenure in office — including 65 grants of clemency this past Friday — but have repeatedly passed over his.”

Steidl was sentenced to death in 1987 for the murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads. After several appeals, a U.S. District Court judge ordered a new trial. Although she initially said she would appeal the decision, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would not pursue the appeal in March 2004. 

“I met with members of both victims’ families to inform them of the status of the investigation and my final decision,” Madigan said at the time. “This has been a very difficult decision, but it is the right decision based upon the evidence.”

Steidl’s conviction was overturned and he has settled civil suits with law enforcement agencies involved, but Quinn has so far declined to act on his petition.

All charges against Herb Whitlock, Steidl’s co-defendant, were dropped in 2008.

His exoneration pushed the wrongful conviction rate of Illinois death row inmates to more than 6 percent, according to the center.

— Joseph Diebold