You are reading a rare, detailed account of everyday life in Stateville Prison.

Click to read Paul's blog quoted on:
To contact Paul, please email: paulmodrowski@gmail.com
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Defending a Monster" and Condemning the Innocent -- 8/12/11

While I was listening to WLS talk radio earlier today, I heard an advertisement for the Roe and Roeper show. They were going to have on a man who helped defend John Wayne Gacy. He had written a book called "Defending a Monster." The name was not mentioned, but I knew it was Samuel Amirante, the same person who presided over my trial and condemned me to spend the rest of my life in prison.

Before I heard the advertisement, a woman I know told me Sam Amirante had written a book attempting to capitalize on his representation of the serial killer. She is studying to be a paralegal and is often on top of legal news. She also happened to run into Amirante at the Rolling Meadows court house recently. He was not promoting his book but standing in line behind her to file a legal document of some sort. I asked her if she asked him for an autograph, and she said, "No. Why?" as if I was being serious. Thereafter though, I was serious, and asked, "Why didn't you say anything to the man who is responsible in part for my conviction, and in totality for my suffering of 18 years?" She did not think there was anything to say to him. She will yell at court security for harrassing an old woman for setting off the metal detector, but not to the man who has given me a slow death sentence.

I did not think the book "Defending a Monster" would be successfully sold. There are so many other true crime books that have been written about John Wayne Gacy and his numerous murders. His would be one of many, and I sensed he was not a compelling writer. The murders occurred about four decades ago, and there have been many other sensationalistic cases since. However, after hearing the advertisement on WLS I thought possibly the "Killer Clown" continues to draw interest.

I was writing while listening to Rush Limbaugh when I heard the announcement. I often listen to talk radio or music while I am reading or writing. I need the background noise to help block out all of the cell house distractions. There are men in the holding cage yelling to people in cells, or talking amongst themselves. There are guards yelling orders or trying to get prisoners' attention. There are radios and televisions throughout the cell house blaring noise all day until about 10 p.m. Then there is my cellmate who has an almost continual need to talk to people. Fortunately, he takes a nap in the afternoon and now he is watching "Big Brother," a TV show that is very popular among prisoners at Stateville.

The stock market has been gyrating up and down this week. WLS radio has regular stock market reports that are a benefit to listening. I am concerned about a quick sell off because I do not know if my family is prepared. I have given them a lot of advice lately, but have not finished my complete assessment of the entire spectrum of the stock market. I could keep my TV on CNN to see the Dow, Nasdaq and S & P indexes, but then I would have to look over every now and then. Listening to the radio kept other noises at bay and I could continue to focus on various tasks. Occasionally, I had to stop to listen carefully to what was being said, however. I stopped my writing completely when my trial judge was on the air.

Sam Amirante was interviewed by Roe and Roeper, a light talk show that comes on Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. I was curious to hear how my trial judge spoke when not in the courtroom. Obviously, he was not going to be his complete self while on a nationally broadcast radio show, but I was still interested in trying to get a glimpse of his personality and the rapport he would have with the two talk radio hosts I have come to know. Earlier this week, I listened to my district's Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He has been on the show a couple of times. I believe I was able to get a sense of his personality. Possibly, I could also of Sam Amirante. However, what I most wanted to know was how he could justify representing the likes of John Wayne Gacy and then, as a judge, be so unjust to a defendant like myself.

Amirante was on the Roe and Roeper show for about a half hour. He seemed to be amiable, although I knew from the courtroom, he could be very different. The talk show hosts treated him friendly despite how his representation of the man who killed 34 men must be repugnant to many. Amirante told them it was his duty to represent all people. He went on to talk about the Constitutional rights of defendants, and how all were regarded to be innocent until proven guilty. His continued talking about defendants' rights, but his rationale for defending John Wayne Gacy was outrageous. Sam Amirante did not just give the "Killer Clown" constitutional representation. He went out of his way to defend a man who was unquestionably guilty, and even he called him a monster. Sam Amirante did not just defend the serial killer, he treated him like a friend. During the show, Amirante seemed very sympathetic towards Gacy, even saying that he was a good man otherwise. In contrast, I was not afforded the slightest bit of sympathy. Even his decline to give me the death penalty was only to prevent me from gaining a new trial and making sure that I would languish indefinitely in prison.

Most of the interview of Samuel Amirante was him describing how he became involved in the case. Apparently, John Wayne Gacy was under suspicion for the murders for quite a while. He spoke to Amirante who was a defense attorney at the time. He told him over the phone that the police were following him and he needed to talk to him in person. Gacy later met with my former trial judge at an office. There, he told him how he killed 34 men in comprehensive detail, and even offered to show him the bodies buried in the crawl space of his home.

It was a cold night when Gacy gave his hours' long confession, and outside the building police officers who were trailing him waited in a car. Amirante noticed the police officers when he went to his own car to get a bottle of liquor to share with the "Killer Clown." He invited the cops inside the building and offered them some coffee. Ironic, I thought, that he would play hostess to both the police and a serial killer.

I wanted to hear my former trial judge talk more about his involvement in the representation of John Wayne Gacy. The itinerary of the Roe and Roeper show was full and scheduled out in advance, however. I thought about how I may procure his book, "Defending a Monster," although he did not even write it. It was written by another attorney who apparently has some writing experience. I will not, however, purchase the book. I would not want any proceeds to go to the man who was complicit in my conviction and sentenced me to life in prison.

I never wanted Sam Amirante as a judge. I told my trial attorneys if they could have him substituted for someone else they should do it. William Von Hoene, formerly of Jenner and Block, however, said he was not the worst judge to have. He told me that he used to be a former public defender before being elected as a judge at the Rolling Meadows courthouse. He thought this would make him fairer in such a high profile case like mine. William Von Hoene did not work in that courthouse, and did not know the judges available. I would have taken the word of a more experienced attorney or a public defender who regularly dealt with the judges more highly. As it turned out, I could not have been more right for being skeptical.

From the beginning, Sam Amirante made important decisions on pretrial motions against me. One of the most significant was denying my Motion to Suppress the interrogating officer's claim that I admitted to lending my car to my co-defendant after he informed me he was going to kill Fawcett. It is not on the defense to prove that my rights were violated, but the prosecution's. However, my attorneys overwhelmingly proved that my Miranda rights were disregarded.

My attorneys presented witness after witness to show how I was denied counsel and the right to remain silent. Witnesses also corroborated my testimony that I was held incommunicado, coerced, threatened and assaulted during my two days of interrogation. Two people who were present when I was taken into custody testified that I immediately demanded a lawyer. Family members testified that when they called various police departments, including Palatine, they were told the police had no knowledge of who I was. A nurse at the Cook County jail testified to my complaints of a sore jaw from being punched by an interrogator. Various witnesses testified to the denial of their Miranda rights and also to being abused by the same Palatine Task Force officers. What made the interrogating officers, John Robertson and John Koziol, even more suspect was their own testimony. Despite the Palatine Police having a requirement to gain signed waivers of Miranda from suspects, none was obtained from me.

The police also failed to get an audio taped, stenographed, or typed and signed statement from me, unlike what they procured from my co-defendant the preceding week. Repeatedly, my co-defendant signed documents stating he was treated well, did not want a lawyer present, and was willing to talk to police freely. John Robertson claimed that I waived my Miranda rights verbally and I also refused to use the telephone when he offered it time and again. I was 18 years old, and was being interrogated for one of the most notorious mass murders in Chicagoland's history, but according to him, I did not want to talk to a family member or a lawyer to let them know I was arrested by numerous gun wielding police and was being held against my will for two days.

Their testimony was ludicrous, but Sam Amirante ruled the interrogating officers stood "like the Rock of Gibraltar" in the face of relentless cross-examination. That is true. The cops did not give an inch, but what they said was so obviously false no one in the courtroom listening to the proceedings could believe them. Despite this, Amirante dismissed my Motion to Suppress and told my attorneys they could raise the credibility of the cops at trial, which they never did.

My former public defender, Dale Coventry, told me that no judge was going to throw out the statements in such a high profile case. It was tantamount to political suicide. Judges were elected into office, and if any judge was seen to discard evidence in a case involving a man who was publicly thought to be a mass murderer, his judgeship would be put in severe jeopardy. Coventry said no matter what evidence was presented, and how well he proved the statements were the result of constitutional violations, it would not matter. He would have to present the evidence to the jury, and I would have to testify. Despite this, I find Samual Amirante's extensive talk of the rights of John Wayne Gacy to be at odds with his actions as a judge. He does not care about the law or justice. Amirante is an opportunist. Throughout much of his career he does what is expedient for his own success.

Sam Amirante continued to reject various defense motions and objections throughout the proceedings against me. Even when the prosecutor lied about the law of accountability in his final argument and used various rhetoric like the Three Musketeers saying "All for one and one for all. The actions of one are the actions of all," the judge would not grant the defense permission to give the jury curative instructions about the law of accountability. However, before he denied such motions or objections, I found it ironic how he would lavish praise upon my attorney for arguing so effectively. I thought to myself, if his argument was so good, why did you deny it? The judge was either setting me up to fail on appeal when I raised ineffective assistance of counsel claims, or trying to kiss butt to my wealthy and well connected civil attorney. My lawyer was a partner at the prestigious law firm of Jenner and Block, and is now Vice President of Finance & Legal at Exelon Corporation.

Although Judge Amirante showed no friendliness towards me, he was continually trying to befriend William Von Hoene. I noticed it in the courtroom and from what I was told occurred outside of it. On the day of my attorney's birthday, I recall the judge had all of the lights turned off in the courtroom and someone brought in a birthday cake with candles. At times when the news media, public, and jury were not present, Sam Amirante always was very pleasant to Bill. I was amazed in chambers how there was a different atmosphere and Bill was treated with respect and almost reverence. I was told how Sam Amirante even went golfing with my attorney, and how they exchanged words about my case that I would not until recently learn were unethical.

Before I went to trial, my attorney was uncertain whether to have a jury or bench trial. Most defendants choose a jury trial because it is more difficult to convince 12 jurors to agree to a guilty verdict. However, jurors are swayed by emotion and I had a tremendous amount of prejudicial pretrial publicity that linked me with the Palatine Brown's Chicken Massacre. When there was little or no evidence and an argument was to be made on a law, it can be advantageous to have a bench trial. However, Samuel Amirante told Bill in no uncertain terms that he did not want my case. He agreed there was not enough evidence to convict me, but he had to think about his political career. It would not look good if he let go the media villain who still was thought to be a prime suspect in a mass murder.

When Bill Von Hoene was trying to coerce me not to testify, he told my parents and me that even the judge thought I "would be a moron to testify. The state had not proved their case." If that was so, I thought, why did he not grant my motion for a direct verdict after the state rested? Possibly, the judge, again, did not want to hurt his political ambitions, although it is also possible my attorney was lying. For a judge to make such exparte communications is against the law. However, I tend to believe my attorney. Sam Amirante, despite what he said on the Roe and Roeper show, does not care about the law and justice, from what I have seen. He cares about himself and his career. He is a man with large ambitions and is unscrupulous in obtaining them. Whether he profits off of a serial killer or sends an innocent teenager to spend the rest of his life in prison. The end justifies the means.

After Amirante sentenced me to a protracted death sentence, he ran for appellate justice. I cannot but believe my incredibly severe sentence was motivated by an image he wanted to create with the public. Amirante was no longer a liberal Democrat public defender but a get-tough-on-crime Republican judge. And if that meant damning me to a slow torturesome existence in Illinois' maximum security prisons until death as a stepping stone to higher office so be it. Why else would an 18-year-old convicted for lending his car to a man who was acquitted of murder be punished so harshly?

Yes, I was still a suspect in the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders at that time, but a judge is not supposed to consider innuendo outside of the courtroom. Furthermore, he heard my co-defendant's wife, Rose, testify that everything she told the police were fabrications to help her husband. The reason I became a suspect in the Palatine case in the first place was due to the accusations and statements of Robert and Rose Faraci. Representing the Killer Clown and sending away the notorious Brown's Chicken mass murderer, along with the connections he had made on the way, could have been thought to carry him even higher than the appellate court. I do not know my trial judge personally, but I tend to get the sense he has an enormous ego. The short and stocky Italian man may even suffer from a Napoleon complex. However, his attempt to be elected to a higher office failed, and eventually Samuel Amirante left public office to become a private defense attorney.

My conviction and sentence has baffled many. A private investigator, who I had retained many years ago, took it upon himself to find out why my judge wanted to destroy an innocent 18 year old. He spoke with Sam Amirante. I do not know under what pretense he spoke to him, except he did not reveal his true purpose. The private investigator also did not elaborate at length about their conversation, but he did tell me point blank that my former trial judge "hated" me. I was surprised by this because I do not know how the judge could have developed a personal hatred of me. I only spoke to him briefly a few times, and under very formal Q and A in the courtroom. Could he have formed such a strong opinion from the news media? From my demeanor in the courtroom? From my testimony at the suppression hearing? I do not know, and I am left even more bewildered after his interview on talk radio.

San Amirante said that he "liked John Wayne Gacy" and despite his horrific crimes, thought "he was a good man". He even expressed sympathy for the serial killer. John Wayne Gacy killed 34 people. He brutally murdered all of these young men and buried their bodies in his crawl space. There was no question of his guilt, and the "Killer Clown" still lives in infamy for his atrocities despite his execution over a decade ago. How does Sam Amirante "like" and have sympathy for this twisted psychotic serial killer, and "hate" and have no sympathy for me? Although my attorney would say otherwise to my jury, I did not even know my co-defendant's intentions nor lend him my car, and my co-defendant was acquitted of the actual murder. The true Palatine Brown's Chicken mass murderers have long been arrested and convicted. Yet Sam Amirante defends a monster and condemns the innocent. It is people like my former trial judge that make a mockery of the justice system. I am glad he no longer has the lives of others in his hands. I can only imagine who his clients are today.