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Monday, May 24, 2010

My 5th Clemency Petition -- April 6, 2010

This week, I completed writing my 5th Petition for Executive Clemency. I have been filing petitions to Illinois governors every two or three years since 1999. All my regular set of appeals have been denied, or not even heard, due to improper filings of lawyers. I have the small possibility of having some of my issues heard by filing a successive post conviction appeal. Other than this, however, all I have left is courting the various governors who come and go, hoping one will finally exonerate me through a pardon, or at the very least, commute my natural life sentence with no possibility of parole to a set number of years.

Petitions for clemency go through the Prisoner Review Board (PRB). It is mostly that board that determines whether or not a request for clemency is granted. The board makes recommendations to the governor, and through my experiences I am led to believe the governor does not even see petitions that are not first approved by the PRB. If the board decides a petition should be granted, the petition is passed to the governor's advisers, including his legal team. If they are all in agreement, paperwork will be passed to the governor for his signature. A typical petition, in my opinion, is never read by the Chief Executive of Illinois.

The Prisoner Review Board members are appointed by the governor, however, some retain their jobs through past administrations. Other than hearing requests for executive clemency, this board decides whether or not to grant parole to prisoners with C numbers. Furthermore, they review disciplinary measures to revoke good time from inmates that are eligible. There are only a few hundred inmates left with C numbers within the almost 50,000 inmates serving time in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and all the inmates with a C number are now very old. In the 1970s, convicts were given indeterminate sentences that made them eligible for parole after a certain amount of time. However, in 1978, the Illinois legislature did away with indeterminate sentences for a fixed amount of years to be decided by a judge. Thus, all the people left with C numbers are convicted murderers who have been incarcerated for over 30 years, and the PRB, for one reason or another, refuses to parole them. There is an 80-year-old man who has been incarcerated since the 1940s for a double homicide and rape. Despite lobbying by prison advocates, it seems the board never intends to parole him.

When the law changed to fixed sentences, convicts only did half their time. However, if a prisoner was not well-behaved, good-time could be taken from him. Good-time is the number of years a prisoner did not have to serve. Thus, a prisoner could be forced to do his entire sentence if he continued to receive disciplinary tickets. Years ago, the prison administration took away good-time at their discretion, however, as guards began to write more and more tickets for the most petty of rule violations never substantiated, the courts stepped in and and ruled that good-time credit could only be taken by a separate adjudicating body. This adjudicating body became the Prisoner Review Board.

In 2000, the law again became stricter with the passage of truth in sentencing. This legislation required all people convicted of violent crimes to serve 85% of their time, and those convicted of murder, 100%. Thus, prisoners have less reason to rehabilitate themselves or be well-behaved. IDOC has increased staff fivefold since the Truth in Sentencing law. It has also created two segregation prisons to keep all the overflow of unruly or violent prisoners locked in their cells basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The justice system has changed greatly from one that awarded rehabilitation and good behavior to a system that gives full power to a trial judge, and is indifferent, punitive, and oppressive. Given the rigid and inflexible system that exists, I tend to believe the Prisoner Review Board will be receiving more and more petitions for executive clemency.

I have never met any of the Prisoner Review Board members. Only C numbers who are eligible for parole once a year, or those who have had good time taken from them, see this board. A request for clemency does not even require a hearing, although I always request one. My family appears before the board and speaks on my behalf while a prosecutor speaks on behalf of the state. A couple of times my trial prosecutor came to the clemency hearing. My trial prosecutor is not a respectable or honorable person. He lied to my jury about the laws of accountability and the evidence presented. He acted in an over dramatic and theatrical way to play on juror's emotions. His conduct was far from professional, and he continually engaged in unscrupulous and unlawful behavior to secure my conviction. From what I have been informed, his conduct is even more outrageous at my clemency hearings. Hopefully, a prosecutor with more honesty and virtue will appear on behalf of the state this time.

The Prisoner Review Board assigns four people to each petition. Five people are at the clemency hearings: one is the board chairman. He directs the hearings, but has no vote unless the other four split in their vote. The board consists mainly of older men and I have been told they are rather impassive and detached. Possibly, they have heard so many cases that it has become a rather dull proceeding for them. Possibly these hearings serve no function other than formality and their minds are already made up beforehand.

Those speaking on my behalf have the floor for 20 minutes, and then the prosecutor speaks for 20 minutes. My family is then given a 5 minute rebuttal, but this time frame is up to the discretion of the board chairman who generally allows my family to speak longer. During these time periods, the board will ask questions from time to time. At the last hearing they attended, the board repeatedly interrupted the rantings of the prosecutor to ask him why a person found guilty based on a theory of accountability and who was not at the crime scene should have to die in prison. Despite this, the board members' opinions are largely illusive, or so I am told. The board never says how they will decide, and a prisoner is usually left waiting a few years. Even when rejected, a petitioner is never told how the board voted. I never know if the board recommended a commutation or a pardon.

The first few petitions I wrote took a considerable amount of time to put together. A petition must follow certain guidelines and you must answer certain specific questions, however, otherwise the content is left up to the petitioner. The first two petitions I wrote had a significant amount of input and influence from my parents. I was not certain exactly what the petition should contain, and my parents took it upon themselves to write parts and edit my writing. Furthermore, I do not have a typewriter nor access to a printer to have the document copied and professionally bound. The vast majority of my legal papers are also at home, and not in my cell. By the third petition, however, I knew exactly what to write, and told my parents not to edit anything that I wrote. I created a system so the pages I wrote were mailed to my parents to type and sent back to me for my proofreading and signature. I scrutinized these pages and sent them back with corrections and changes; then they were printed, copied, bound and mailed to the board. The only difficulty I had was with the exhibits. My 3rd petition had over 50, and many of them I did not have in my cell. I had to rely on my parents to find them, enclose them, and properly cite them within the petition.

My fifth petition was not difficult to write. I merely took the pages of the former one and made changes directly on them. I sent these pages home to be altered as directed. My parents have my 4th petition on their computer and it was easy for them to make the changes. Most of their work involved looking through legal papers seeking out new exhibits to use. However, most of the exhibits will be the same. I began working on this petition early last week, and it was completed by Easter Sunday. I now depend on my parents to have the petition typed, printed, bound, and mailed to the Prisoner Review Board, the Chief Judge, and the States Attorney.

The major differences in the 5th petition are changes and additions I made to my reasons for clemency. Since my last petition, I discovered that Rose Faraci, Bob Faraci's former wife, did not lie as much as I had thought to the Grand Jury. In fact, she told the truth when she stated that I left in my own car on December 28, 1992. It was what Rose Faraci said to police officers while she was not under oath that was a conspiracy with her husband to frame me for the murder of Dean Fawcett, and the Palatine murders. Thus, I had to change my accusation against the prosecutor from "knowingly using false testimony to gain my indictment" to "knowingly using false hearsay testimony." The prosecutor had people testify to what Bob Faraci had told them. The prosecutor was obviously aware that Bob Faraci was lying when he made several incredulous and contradicting statements to police as well as others, like his wife. The prosecutor should have never presented this evidence to the Grand Jury.

I added two new subchapters to my reasons for clemency. One was to mention the online petition and accompanying list of people who support my release. The other was to mention the new evidence I have gathered, further proving my innocence.

Since 2004, three people have given me affidavits regarding conversations they had with my co-defendant, Bob Faraci. My co-defendant has a big mouth, and I was not particularly surprised to eventually come across people to whom he had confessed. However, the lengths and attempts that Bob went to to frame me before trial never cease to amaze me.

In order to deflect suspicion off himself for the Barrington murder, my co-defendant compelled his wife, Rose, to make a number of statements to police incriminating me in Fawcett's murder and the Brown's Chicken murders in Palatine. Not only did he seek out the help of his wife, but apparently several inmates at the Cook County Jail while we were awaiting trial. The first person I was to learn of was a man named Lonnie Burke. Lonnie approached me while I was in a holding cage, waiting to be bussed to the Rolling Meadows Courthouse. He told me that Bob Faraci had offered him money to make up a story that I confessed to killing Dean Fawcett to him. Lonnie agreed to do this, and Faraci's lawyers put his name on their defense witness list. However, thereafter, Lonnie Burke's conscience got to him and he refused to fabricate a story incriminating me for the benefit of the person he knew actually did kill Dean Fawcett. He told me, contrarily, he would testify against Bob Faraci if my lawyers wanted. The next time I saw my lawyers, I told them about my meeting with Lonnie Burke. However, after Rose Faraci admitted to prosecutors, before my trial, that she conspired to help her husband frame me, my lawyers were not very interested in putting Lonnie Burke on the witness stand. The assistant states attorney was going to prosecute me under a theory of accountability, and not of actually killing the victim. After my trial, I never saw or heard from Lonnie Burke again. However, I was by chance to run into another man who Bob Faraci tried to solicit to frame me.

A few years ago, I learned Bob Faraci tried to get Ron Kliner to testify falsely against me. Ron Kliner was at the Cook County Jail the same time that my co-defendant and I were there. He also went to the same courthouse in Rolling Meadows. He sometimes went to court on the same bus with Bob Faraci. They would regularly talk, until one day when Bob tried to persuade him to pin the Fawcett murder on me. Apparently, Bob told him because they were both Italian that he should help him out. He made references to the mafia, and also told him he would be well paid. Ron was furious that my co-defendant tried to solicit him in such a plan, and told him to never speak to him again. However, Kliner, unlike Lonnie Burke, never told me about the incident until just a few years ago.

Along with the affidavit from Ron Kliner, I am attaching as exhibits affidavits from two other people Bob Faraci confessed to. One of these men was formerly Bob's best friend in the late 1980s. He happened to meet Bob again in a prison in Centralia, Illinois. Bob Faraci had been acquitted of the Fawcett murder; however, a few years later he was arrested and convicted of an elaborate check cashing scheme. He was sentenced to 24 years and thus was in prison when he caught up with his old friend, who was also coincidentally doing time for check fraud in a different case. Bob's longtime friend had seen all the news coverage of his arrest in the Barrington murder, and it was one of the first things he asked him about. Bob told him how he had killed Dean Fawcett, and later dismembered him.

I am not sure how significant the Prisoner Review Board will find my new affidavits. Afterall, I have already presented to them, three times, the testimony of Bob Faraci's former wife, and the trial judge's comments at the death sentence hearing that I was not at the crime scene. I have also produced evidence that blood was found in Faraci's car, and affidavits by witnesses who, although never called to testify at trial, know that my car could not have been borrowed by Faraci on the day he killed Fawcett. The PRB seems unwilling to retry my case, despite what evidence I present to them that proves my innocence.

Throughout the ten years I have been submitting petitions for clemency, I am unaware of anyone who has been granted a pardon based on actual innocence and had not first had their conviction overturned by an appellate court. I could submit 100 affidavits to the Prisoner Review Board proving my innocence, and they would probably still be unmoved. I could get an affidavit from Faraci himself, stating in detail how he killed Dean Fawcett and how I was never aware of his intentions and did not lend him my car that day--and it would be doubtful the board would recommend a pardon! Thus, this is why I argue that at the very least, my sentence is disproportionate to the crime I was convicted of, and should be commuted. Many people have asked me if I am innocent, why do I ask for a reduced sentence as an alternative to a full pardon. The answer is that the board refuses to recognize the evidence I offer them that proves my innocence. They apparently believe guilt and innocence is a matter the courts should decide. I have tried to explain to them, and my family has as well, that my trial attorneys failed to present this evidence, and my appeals were dismissed without being heard due to improper filing. I will probably never have the opportunity to present this evidence to the courts. The Prisoner Review Board is my only hope. If they do not look at the evidence, no one with any authority ever will.

The next deadline for filing this petition is April 29th. If I were to miss this, my petition would not be heard until the fall.. It is important to me that I file now and not later because of the possibility of a change in governors. This November, Governor Quinn is running against Bill Brady. According to poll numbers, the incumbent governor will likely lose the election. When a governor leaves office, he is much more likely to make decisions without consideration of politics. Obviously, granting commutations or pardons to prisoners, especially a convicted murderer, is not politically wise. Governor Quinn faced enormous public backlash when he just simply allowed convicts to be released a month early to save the state millions of dollars of having them transported to a downstate prison and housing them until they served all of their sentences. Thus, a governor typically leaves such decisions to the end of his political career, like former Illinois Governor George Ryan did when he commuted all death sentences to natural life without parole.

I will be posting my entire petition in the coming months. Anyone who is interested in reading my 5th petition will be able to do so, and post their comments. Those who have signed in support of my petition already will have their names given to the Prisoner Review Board and Governor Quinn. One of the exhibits readers will see is, in fact, the signature petition currently at If you have not already signed, but would like to do so after reading the document and exhibits, you will still be able to add your name online. The website will be given to the PRB and Governor Quinn so they, or their staff, can visit the site.

I no longer put much hope in these requests for clemency. I used to look forward to some prison official telling me to pack up my property because I was being released. I particularly entertained such fantasy thoughts toward the end of former Governor George Ryan's term. However, I no longer have such hope. A petition for clemency is a Hail Mary pass--a last ditch effort that has a minute chance of success. Just like the football team that throws the ball some 50 yards while time expires, I make the effort simply because there is nothing else I can do, except accept defeat. Having said this, though, I will close this journal entry with a story about a C number I used to know.

Nine or ten years ago, I knew an old man who had been in prison for over 25 years. In the 1970s, he committed a series of armed robberies. A couple of people were shot in those robberies, but none died. This was not his first time in prison, and he had been convicted of armed robbery before. With Illinois' new laws, such a man would be eligible for the habitual criminal act and natural life without parole. However, in the 70s, there was no such sentence, and even life sentences had a possibility of parole after 12 years. Every year this man went in front of the PRB after he had served the minimum of his indeterminate sentence. This man signed on to every rehabilitative program available in prison. He also thought long and hard about what he would tell the board. Every year, he would get his hopes up that this would be the year. He made plans and sold dreams to his family. However, every year his parole was denied.

After over a decade of seeing the PRB, he no longer contacted his remaining family members. He no longer went out of his way to be a good inmate. He did not even think about what he would tell the board when he went before them. He got to the point where he sat in front of the board and said, "I don't have nothing to say. You are going to deny me parole, and I will not waste my breath." It was that year, 2001, that the board released him. I saw him on his way out of prison, and he was still in shock. Just like the old man, I will just continue to file for clemency, and hopefully I will one day be shocked to be released.