The hearing is conducted in one of the state buildings in Illinois' capital, Springfield. It is a long drive for my family, and previously they have asked to have their scheduled time later in the day so they would not be late, or have to begin driving before dawn. At my last hearing, the site had been moved to another building without any advance warning. When my family arrived there, they found a sign directing them to a different location. My family had arrived at the last minute, and then had to scramble to find the new place. At the second location they found another note directing participants to yet another location a few blocks away.
This time, I told them to drive to Springfield the day before and spend the night at a hotel. The next day they would be well rested and unrushed. They were taking my advice and as I spoke with my mother, she searched for hotels on the Internet.
I asked my mother who was attending my hearing this time. She told me that my sister, herself and possibly my father. I asked why she said "possibly," and she told me he thought there was no point in the matter. He believes the Board will never grant my petition. I replied that I realized the odds were minute, but it was important to make the effort nevertheless. I reasoned the hearing was mostly a formality with little relevance, but what relevance there existed, in my opinion, was demonstrating to the Board that I had supporters willing to travel and speak on my behalf. Previously, my father has become very passionate and emotionally taxed at these hearings only to later have my petition denied. It must be very strenuous and painful for my parents to repeatedly argue my innocence and the travesty of justice that has occurred to their son time and time again to a Board that seems unmoved.
I wanted someone to go in my father's place if he was not going. My mother asked, "Who?" I said, "Anyone, but preferably male, and it did not have to be a family member." I always speculate how the Board views my mother as an advocate for my release. Almost all mothers back their sons regardless of their guilt, character, potential, or rehabilitation. Many mothers have unconditional love for their sons, and will not be viewed as objective. I wanted someone to attend my hearing who was not biased, but strongly believed in my release.
I asked my mother about various men who were friends of my family and had expressed strong opinions about my conviction and imprisonment. I asked about male relatives and was told they had to work and could not be expected to take a day off on such short notice. I questioned why she had not approached them earlier about the matter, but did not press the issue because I should have asked one of them myself a long time ago. I assumed, though, that my father would be going. I mentioned my brother-in-law. Although he had already given an affidavit that was used as an exhibit in my petition, he could personally tell the Board how my car could not have been used by my co-defendant on the evening in question. I was told that it was his birthday and the last thing he wanted to do was spend the entire day with his mother-in-law. I thought about a man who was not a relative, and of good moral stature that has come to know me very well over the years, and knows the details of my case. Unfortunately, he lives in Canada. Although I have acquired about 780 signatures online in support of my Clemency Petition, I was disappointed that only two people would be speaking on my behalf to the Board.
I hung up the phone, and turned on my television to the World Cup Soccer Championship game. I am not a fan of soccer and in my opinion it would never come close to equaling the sport of American football. However, I had watched a few of the semifinals and found myself hoping for a German-Holland championship. Mexico was among the countries in the original mix, and there were quite a number of prisoners cheering for the country. In one of the games that Mexico won, I heard a lot of banging on bars and saw confetti falling from the upper galleries. Mexico did not go far, however, and although Spain was in today's final, there was not any excitement over the game. I have learned that although Spaniards and Mexicans share the same language, that is about as far as their affinity for each other goes. After learning of the disappointing news from my mother, I was not in much of a mood to hear the annoying and obnoxious horns of the fans at the soccer game and watched it mostly without any sound on my TV. Spain won the game by one 1 to 0, but by the play, it was clear that Spain deserved the victory.
Wednesday morning, I did not fail to remember my hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. At that hour, I briefly imagined what was taking place. Prisoners are never brought to clemency hearings, but it would have been nice if I could speak on my own behalf and witness the event myself. I will have to rely on the second hand information I receive from my family. I believe I wrote a good petition and people tell me I am a good writer. I can have difficulty connecting with people on an individual basis, and possibly a written presentation was for the better. Chow lines were run early and when I returned, I knew my hearing was over. I did not give the hearing much thought, if any, later in the day. This was my 5th clemency hearing, and with each one, I give less and less thought to them. Other than when I wrote the petition earlier this year, I have thought very little about it. Unlike prior petitions, I have not even entertained the thought of it being granted, and what life would be like outside these prison walls. I have been in prison so long that it is exceedingly difficult to even fantasize about a life post prison, and I realize my petition has only slightly better chances than winning the lottery.
Earlier today, my mother came to visit me. It was noisy and crowded as usual. During our visit, I said little and slowly drank a bottle of cranberry juice as I listened to her recall the events from my hearing. Every now and then I would ask her a question. I tried to ascertain an objective, critical, and as unadulterated version of events as possible. It is not beyond my mother to intentionally alter events in an attempt to make me feel less pessimistic or more hopeful about my future. In order to get a better, or at least variant perspective, I will call my sister in a few days. I will then see how their stories match up.
My mother related to me that the hearing was in a large room inside the new capital building. At the front were about ten plush chairs behind a long wooden table or bar. Only three of these chairs were filled, which surprised her. Typically, five or more Prisoner Review Board members are present. The three that were present had been present for prior hearings, but only my sister was able to recognize them at a distance. The room had rows of chairs facing forward that were largely empty. There were only three other people there to speak to the board about petitions, and one prosecutor representing the state. In the front of the public seating area were a few chairs with a table and microphones. I was told the architectural style of the building and interior was of classical design. It had somewhat of a courtroom appearance, but was more lavish in woodwork and craftsmanship. Details, such as this, I like to hear about because of my interest in architecture. I specifically like the romantic-neoclassical style that is present in many government buildings from the 1800s.
I was interested in the other cases that the board heard that day. I wanted to know what type of cases they were, how they presented their issues, how the prosecutor responded, and finally how the Board reacted. To have any sense of perspective, I needed to know about other clemency hearings. My mother clearly wanted to speak about how my hearing went, but she indulged my curiosity and told me about two of the other cases.
The first woman basically had a drug case. She currently had three low level part-time jobs but gained an education over the years and was hoping to secure better employment. She told the Board about her schooling and the line of work she was hoping to do if her request for a pardon was granted. One Board member interrupted her and asked why there was no prosecutor present to oppose her petition. (There is always a prosecutor assigned to cases being reviewed.) She said she did not know, whereupon she was asked if she sent a copy of her petition to the states attorney's office as required. She said she did not know she had to. The Board told her that they could not consider her petition at this time, and told her how to reapply.
The second case was a man who was convicted of domestic battery. The man had been separated a long time from his ex-wife, and had not had any other problems with the law except failure to pay child support. He wanted a pardon so he could get a better paying job, which would help him pay all the back child support he owed. A Board member asked him how far behind he was in child support payments. The man said he could not recall. However, the Board did not believe him and insisted several times that he answer. Finally the man admitted to still owing over $90,000. From what I was told, this did not sit well with the board, and my mother tended to think he will not receive a positive recommendation. The prosecutor for the state in that case was the same one who appeared to speak against my petition, James McKay. He ranted against clemency for that man, saying that the man had a few arrests regarding violation of an order of protection filed by his first wife and nonpayment of child support. He said some hateful things about this man, and concluded that it was doubtful he would be successful at any job. The man was given a 5 minute rebuttal, but my mother didn't think it did any good.
Upon entering this courtroom, both my mother and sister immediately saw James McKay sitting in the far back corner. McKay was the lead prosecutor at my trial, and may be the most unscrupulous and unprofessional assistant states attorney in Cook County. At my trial, McKay lied about the law of accountability and the evidence during his opening and closing statements. He also intentionally used witnesses that he knew were lying or incredible. McKay, furthermore, over dramatized and acted like he was the leader of a 3 ring circus to appeal to jurors' emotions and distract them from the facts of the case. He was successful in convicting an innocent man, but I suppose in some circles he is thought of as very good at his job. However, in my opinion, a good states attorney is not one who wins every case, but one who follows the laws and seeks truth and justice, not just convictions.
Typically, the petitioner is permitted 20 minutes to speak, which is then followed by 20 minutes for the prosecutor. The petitioner then gets 5 minutes in rebuttal. During these times, the Board will ask questions from time to time. The Board chairman has the authority to grant a speaker extra time, and my mother and sister were probably given close to an hour total to speak and rebut the lies of the prosecutor.
I am told the chairman was very friendly in greeting my mother when she approached the bench. My family has spoken to some of the same board members several times, and through three different executive administrations, so they have been acquainted for some time. My mother began by telling the Board that, although the petition was printed on her computer, everything contained in it is my words which I had written and sent to her. She also vouched for all the exhibits being authentic copies of the originals. The exhibits included transcript excerpts from my trial, police reports, affidavits, and various other documents. My mother sought to make this clear from the onset because of the prosecutor's penchant for lying. My petition has about 100 exhibits intentionally she told the Board, so despite what the prosecutor may claim, they will have the facts.
Board members stated that they have read the petition carefully and were very well acquainted with the facts and issues I presented. In prior hearings, my mother had been told not to rehash the petition, so my mother thought she would go over subject matter not contained within it. The night before, or during the week, my mother had researched pardons on the Internet. She found an article written by an authoritative source about the history of pardons and how it has been used for centuries. She gave a copy of the article to each board member, who I am told looked at it with interest.
The word "pardon" apparently comes form the French word "pardona" The monarchs of Europe often pardoned people as merely an act of mercy. Sometimes entire prisons were emptied on special occasions as the king sought to demonstrate his power and compassion. My mother told the Board how I had been locked up since I was 18 and had spent half my life in prison for allegedly lending my car to my co-defendant. She spoke of my diagnosis of having autism and how maximum security prison was a harrowing and anguishing experience, and exceptionally cruel for me.
One of the modern day reasons for granting pardons listed in the article was because of dubious or uncertain guilt. My mother spoke about how despite what my trial lawyer did (by not contesting the prosecutor's theory of accountability), there was ample evidence available to show the interrogating officer was lying and I did not know about my co-defendant's intentions, nor did I lend my car to him on the day in question. She continued pointing out that none of the interrogating officer's notes were corroborated, nor was a signed wavier of Miranda obtained as required. Unlike my co-defendant and others questioned by police, there were no signed statements, recordings, or stenographed reports. There were also witnesses available to demonstrate that John Robertson's claims that I lent my car were false. Finally, my mother spoke about how I was roughly interrogated for two days without a lawyer or parental figure, despite being only 18 years old and having autism.
The Board was interested in why my trial lawyers did not put on any defense witnesses. My lead attorney is well known, and apparently well liked. At the time of my trial, he was a partner at the prestigious law firm of Jenner and Block. He is now currently the Vice President of Exelon Corporation. My mother told them that Bill Von Hoene was not a criminal lawyer, but mostly only practiced civil law. He had limited criminal trial experience and had never been counsel in a capital murder case. A board member questioned how my mother knew this and expressed that possibly my lawyer did not make a strategic error in trial strategy because perhaps the state had actually not proven its case.
Another factor cited in granting pardons was rehabilitation. My mother spoke about how I earned a college degree while in prison, and how I was class valedictorian with a 4.0 grade point average. She spoke about the numerous books I have read while in prison and I currently read considerable amounts of information on economics, investments, and corporate reports. She said that I could probably make a good stock broker if the Board would recommend a pardon, and I could seek such a job. My mother has often told me she envisions me as a stock broker, but I would never want to work the floor buying and selling stocks. A job in finance or investing does appeal to me, but there are also other fields I cannot pursue in prison that interest me.
In my petition, I presented the Board with three new affidavits. They were from people in whom my co-defendant had confided before the trial, and years afterward, that he murdered Dean Fawcett. He tried to persuade one of the people to fabricate a story that contrarily I had admitted to the murder to him. Another person was a close friend of Bob Faraci's in the 1980s, and when they happened to meet years later at Centralia C.C., Bob told him how he killed and dismembered the victim. The last affidavit was from a man my co-defendant went to court with, and it also confirmed the other statements. My mother knew the prosecutor would attempt to discredit these affidavits, and thus explained to the Board how I came into possession of this evidence. I did not know any of the people who gave affidavits, and it was only by chance that I met them during my years at Stateville.
Before my mother let my sister speak, she told the Board why my father had not attended today's hearing. My father did not believe the Board would ever give a positive recommendation to the governor despite what evidence I presented of my innocence. The Board Chairman asked my mother how she knew they had not previously recommended that my petition be granted. My mother responded that it seemed obvious since she was back there presenting my case for the fifth time. The Chairman responded that the governor had the final say on petitions, which seemed to imply that it was not the Board who was rejecting my requests for clemency. I asked my mother if she thought they were trying to give us false hope, attempting to obscure responsibility, or were inferring the truth. She was not certain; it was difficult reading most of the Board members.
My sister spoke for only a few minutes, from what I was informed. She mainly talked about how she knew it was absolutely impossible for Faraci to have used my car on the evening he killed the victim. I had traveled to her house on that day, and did not leave till late that night. She was positive that I had used my Ford Mustang to get to her house and recalled seeing it parked on the street.
It was now time for the prosecutor, James McKay, to speak. He began by complaining that my mother had filed a complaint against him after the last time he appeared to oppose my petition. He attempted to defend himself, but there was no excuse for his conduct. At the last hearing, he screamed at the Board many lies about me. He acted like a mad man and literally foamed at the mouth and spit when he spoke, from what I was told. The clemency hearings are largely civil proceedings and James McKay's conduct was outrageous. It seems the prosecutor believes theatrics, rage, and emotion can make up for the falsehood he speaks and the hollowness of his case. Possibly, he believes the more forcefully he lies, the more they will believe him. But, at the last hearing he came across as crazy, and this was not just my family's opinion.
The prosecutor conducted himself more professionally this time, however, his lies were the same. He told the Board I was not guilty of merely lending my car, but of actually killing Dean Fawcett. He said the reason my attorney put on no defense at trial was because I was guilty and he was too ethical to put on witnesses whom he thought were lying. As for all my new affidavits, he read from the criminal files of the affiants. They were murderers, rapists, batterers, and so on. Then he went on to talk about my juvenile history and told the Board I had beat up and bullied students. He also claimed I stabbed one classmate and a dog owned by a girl I once dated. Finally, he denied that I had autism, and said I appeared highly intelligent and normal to him at trial and pretrial motions. Although the trial court never addressed the issue, the prosecutor told the Board that "Even the judge said he was not autistic."
I am not surprised by the prosecutor's rhetoric. He has said the same things before and it is all he can say in defense of my conviction and protracted death sentence. If the prosecutor would admit that I was found guilty on the basis of a marginable case of accountability, no reasonable person would say that I deserved a life sentence. If my attorney had made a collossal blunder in strategy, I deserved a new trial at a minimum. And what could McKay say about the new evidence corroborating what I and others have been saying for years? He could say they were terrible criminals. My prison record is relatively good and, thus, the prosecutor goes back about 20 years to try and demonstrate I am a bad person. He has no problem exaggerating, distorting, or outright lying about my past in an attempt to slander.
James McKay is an unscrupulous, corrupt prosecutor who does anything to win. Truth and justice seem to mean nothing to him. Victory is everything. The end always justifies the means to this trial prosecutor. Ironic that he and his colleague, during closing arguments, told my jury that I was guilty by accountability for Faraci's actions, and yet now he wants to say I killed the victim myself. During closing arguments they would argue dramatically to the jury that I was guilty for lending my car, letting the victim go to his death without warning him, for not cooperating with police or hiding the murder weapon when I packed Bob, his wife, and my own belongings when moving to another apartment. Ironic how the prosecutors repeatedly told the jury Bob was my buddy, partner, and best friend to impress upon the jury that I was guilty by association. Ironic how the prosecution told the jury about the "beauty of accountability" and how it was not necessary that I actually be at the crime scene. Ironic how they jumped up and down pretending to be one of the "Three Musketeers", shouting things like "All for one and one for all. The actions of one are the actions of all!"
I do not think James McKay would ever change his attitude or admit he was wrong. He seems to be fully entrenched, despite what evidence develops. Bob Faraci's wife told him that she and her husband lied to frame me of the murder, yet he was still unhesitant in prosecuting me. A man tells him it was Bob, and not I, who expressed wanting to kill Fawcett. Blood is found in my co-defendant's car and his wife tells an informant her husband returned covered in blood. Witnesses speak to police that my car and I were 50 miles away from the crime scene. I am still guilty of accountability. After trial, more witnesses come forward to say Bob confessed to them. They are criminals. I tend to think even if I got a confession from Bob himself, McKay would say he was a liar. I could even get NSA spy satellite images of Bob driving the victim to the murder site in his own car and shooting him, and I tend to believe that James McKay would still vehemently argue I was still guilty.
During McKay's monologue, my mother scribbled notes. When it was her turn for rebuttal, she responded to most of McKay's lies. He spewed forth so many, I am told, it was difficult for her to write them all down. Normally, a petitioner is only allowed 5 minutes to respond. However, the Board Chairman let her speak for much longer. My mother repeatedly called the prosecutor a liar until one board member interrupted and said she did not want to hear name calling. My mother then said, "I may be old fashioned, but to me when someone misstates the truth he is lying. The Appellate Court said McKay 'misrepresented' the law of accountability to the jury, but to me that is lying. McKay is a liar."
From what I am told, the Board seemed disinterested in most of what the prosecutor said. They had heard it all before and they were aware that I was not at the crime scene. The judge at sentencing said so, and so did a former, more ethical, prosecutor at one of my hearings. Furthermore, the evidence that my co-defendant killed the victim is overwhelming. Interestingly, what the Board most wanted to hear about from my mother was about the dog McKay mentioned. "Did Paul really stab a dog?" one asked. My mother had to tell them again, "No," and reminded them that all my criminal history, all juvenile matters, was at their disposal and was listed in my clemency petition. I was never arrested or convicted for stabbing a dog. A girl I dated for a short time in high school had her home burglarized, and her dog was stabbed. The girl was a vindictive ex-girlfriend and at my sentencing hearing she told the judge she believed I stabbed her dog. She said this despite how another teen had admitted and plead guilty to making harassing phone calls, taunting her about how he had stabbed her dog. The prosecutor has this man's police and court files, including how he killed two of his neighbor's dogs. He also admitted to the break-in and stabbing of the dog in a tape recording made by undercover police investigating a string of other burglaries in his home town.
Leaving the air conditioned visiting room to return to my sweltering cage, I thought about what my mother had told me about the clemency hearing. It would be nice if the Board recommended my release, and I appreciate all of the people who have signed my online petition in support of this. However, I doubt anything will come of it. Most likely, I will wait a few years to finally be told by my parents that it was denied, just like the previous four were. My cellmate asked me how my visit went when I returned and I told him crowded and noisy as usual, though the air conditioning was nice. I did not mention my clemency hearing. He does not even know I filed one. It is not worth speaking of. My life in prison will continue as it has for the last 17 years. There is no point uttering fanciful ideas or creating any unwarranted envy in him. Sitting in my cage, it seems even a waste of thought to consider a life outside these walls.