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Friday, October 23, 2009

Petition for Executive Clemency Denied - Sept. 29, 2009

My fourth petition for Executive Clemency was denied last December, however, it was only today that I learned the grim news. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board never contacts an inmate when his or her petition is denied. Instead, they send a brief letter to your family. My mother received the letter in the spring, but has been keeping it a secret from me. In fact, my entire family has known, and not one of them was forthright enough to tell me. After asking a few of my family members, I was told it is because they did not want to depress me, or be the harbinger of bad news. My sister and father gave the additional excuse that the letter was sent to my mother, thus they felt it was her responsibility to tell me. This is the second time my family has kept a rejection of a petition from me. They like giving me false hope, although they know how this angers me, and that I will eventually find out.

Executive clemency is, for the most part, the only avenue in which I can seek some sort of remedy for the injustice smitten upon me. All my regular set of appeals have been exhausted. I am researching the filing of a successive post-conviction appeal, but these appeals are very difficult to get heard, let alone win. Today, James Degorski, the second defendant in the Palatine Browns Chicken murders, was found guilty on all counts. I know very well that I was taken to trial, slandered by the press, found guilty, and sentenced to life without parole because of being named a suspect in the Palatine case. However, even after the two killers have been caught and convicted, I am still made to suffer, and no one cares to rehear my case. The courts, nor the governor, will reverse my conviction or sentence. It seems I am forever doomed to live out the rest of my years in prison.

Apparently, to make me feel better about my 4th petition being turned down, my father said the petition was a waste of time to begin with. He said no matter what I presented to the Prisoner Review Board, or how well and persuasive my petition was, it would have been denied. Executive Clemency is a highly political action, and although there is a board, it is the standing governor who is held responsible for the decision. Any governor who seeks a future in politics does not want to put his neck out for a man, even an innocent man, who languishes in prison. Politicians fear looking soft on crime to the media and voters; they must also worry that granting a pardon or commutation of sentence could come back to hit them in the behind. However, I thought my petition may have had a chance because it was clear to me, if not to the governor, that he would never be re-elected.

Ex-governor Blagojevich was under federal investigation for corruption, and had the lowest approval rating by voters in decades. He was eventually arrested, and charged with many crimes, including trying to sell the vacant federal senate seat left open by Barack Obama. There were a number of other pending corruption charges at the time my petition was before him, and I thought certainly this would allow him to do the right thing, and not act upon political self-serving interests. Contrarily, the governor denied my petition just before being arrested. I have no information as to what the Prisoner Review Board recommendation was, as their decision always remains a secret.

My fourth petition could not have been written any better. I spent many hours drafting, and redrafting it. I also went through many of my trial transcripts, police reports, and other documents to attach as exhibits. My petition was fully corroborated, and had twice the number of exhibits as it had written pages. I had to identify the exhibits with two sets of letters, A to Z, and AA to ZZ. In that petition, I did not just cast doubt on my conviction, but proved my innocence. I proved police and prosecutorial misconduct. I proved that I was not at the crime scene, and did not, nor could I have, lent my car to my co-defendant on the day in question. I proved that my lawyer was incompetent, and did not even try to contest the prosecutor's theory of accountability despite having overwhelming evidence at his disposal to do so. The interrogating officer, John Robertson, who claimed I admitted being told by my co-defendant that he was going to kill the victim, and lending him my car, was thoroughly discredited. Anyone who read my petition and reviewed my exhibits, along with their authenticity, could not have thought otherwise.

The Prisoner Review Board (PRB) seems unwilling to retry my case. Therefore, my petition also demonstrated the injustice of my sentence. I argued that even if the prosecution's case was true, it was a terribly cruel and unusual punishment, and that I received a protracted death sentence. I was convicted under a theory of accountability for allegedly having foreknowledge of a murder, not attempting to prevent it, and loaning my vehicle. I have listened to the evidence of numerous prisoners, and researched cases in law books. I have yet to learn of a person given life without parole who was not at the crime scene, and so minimally involved, or uninvolved, receive such a harsh sentence. A member of the PRB interrupted the prosecutor in his tirade at one of my public hearings to ask him if he knew of any case such as mine where the sentence was natural life without parole. The prosecutor did not want to answer, but the board member interrupted him again to ask, where upon the prosecutor had to admit that he had researched that and found no other case. Why should an 18-year-old be sentenced to life in prison for lending his car? Why does a person who is the most marginally accountable be given the most severe sentence? It is extremely difficult to accept that I must die in prison for the lies of a deputy who claims I lent my car. This is not justice.

One of my older clemency petitions is available online at This is a copy of my 3rd petition, and not the one that was rejected by former governor Blagojevich. The 4th petition is more compelling, and contains twice the number of exhibits. The petition now on the freewebs was posted by a girl I wrote years ago, and she did this without my knowledge. I suppose it was a surprise gift to me. She did not have access to the exhibits, so none were included. Ironically, it was the rejection of my 3rd petition that caused me to stop writing to her. What was the point of continuing a relationship where there was no foreseeable future? My family will always be there for me, along with other supporters of my freedom, yet having my petition denied once again does leave me with a bitter, empty feeling. As long as I am alive, however, I will continue to tell my story, like a ghost haunting the living, until there is justice.

My apologies to all those who signed my online petition this year. I do appreciate all the support. I am touched by those from my past who I have not seen in years, and yet who still remember me and have signed my petition for executive clemency. I realize I was not the most popular or friendly kid in school, and I am happy to have collected so many signatures. I recently received a signature from a girl I knew in junior high, and one of my early supporters was my best friend in elementary school, who I have not seen since 5th grade. These signatures mean more to me than I believe anyone realizes. I died, for all practical purposes, when I was 18, and those years before my arrest have special meaning to me, along with all those I knew back then. I am also grateful for all those who never met me, and despite this have given their support. The courts and past two governors of Illinois will not give me the time of day, but I am happy that hundreds of people across the USA, and even around the world, can sympathize with the injustice committed against me. I will not allow your signatures to have been made in vain. I will file yet another petition for clemency at the end of the year to Governor Quinn. This 5th petition, along with exhibits, will be put online for everyone to see. Hopefully, this petition will be my final petition.