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Monday, June 18, 2012

A Letter to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez--June 7, 2012

Yesterday, I spent part of my day writing Anita Alvarez, the State's Attorney of Cook County. A couple of months ago, I was sent a newspaper clipping from the Chicago Sun Times through the mail. In the article, the State's Attorney was reported to have created an independent 6 person unit to investigate wrongful conviction claims. The investigative panel was said to be made in response to the many high profile murder cases from prior administrations which have fallen apart during her administration. At the end of the editorial, the author speculates the internal unit may have difficulty criticizing the same department and it was important for Alvarez to make sure outside pressures were not put on it. The author also speculated the group may become little more than a public relations arm of the police and prosecutor's office. This was my thinking exactly, and thus I never bothered to write the State's Attorney. However, since then, I have begun to think...what do I have to lose?

A few weeks ago, I spoke with my appellate attorney. She is always friendly, although I often become frustrated with her lack of progress. I told her I am going to write the Cook County State's Attorney with the evidence I already have which I believe amply proves my innocence. Like me, she has serious doubts about the effectiveness of this unit. Perhaps Alvarez wants to create the illusion to the public she is actually concerned about the numerous men who have been found innocent after being wrongly convicted. If the States Attorney's Office was truly concerned about justice, they would not have held up and fought James Kluppelberg and other prisoners' appeals for years despite having evidence of their innocence. However, with Governor Quinn slowly ruling on a backlog of over a thousand petitions for Executive Clemency, I refuse to passively languish in prison. Action of any type is better than no action, and for a man trapped in a coffin for 19 years, it is better to kick, beat walls, and attempt to scratch my way out than slowly suffocate to death. Possibly, someone will hear my screams in the cemetery and come to my rescue.

The prison went on lockdown momentarily today while I was sorting the documents to send along with my letter to Anita Alvarez. I overheard cell house workers who remained out in C House say a shot was fired in the Roundhouse. Later, I was informed two Hispanic prisoners were fighting and when guards intervened, one was swung at. Staff has occasionally commented there is too much going on in F House and this is the cause of repeated incidents. The ground floor is segregation and the upper three floors are general population except for about 15 cells which are protective custody. Each of these groups of prisoners must be isolated and regulated differently. The different classifications of inmates probably does cause more work, complications, and confusion for staff. However, I have heard stories about the Roundhouse when it was all general population, and it was still the most violent and disruptive cell house.
I had to complement my letter to the State's Attorney with various documents and affidavits. I am certain many prisoners have already contacted her office claiming to be innocent. There is no shortage of men claiming innocence despite how overwhelming the evidence is against them. Today, my cellmate showed me another newspaper article from another publication about the panel set up by Anita Alvarez to investigate claims of wrongful convictions. This was a copy and is apparently being passed amongst prisoners here. I do not want my letter to be thrown in a stack of piles like all the others possibly never to be reviewed. I must distinguish my case convincingly and provide proof. Unfortunately, some of my affidavits and documents are not in my possession. Tomorrow, I will have to call my family to send the additional papers including my Petition for Executive Clemency.

The following is my letter to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. If I receive a response, I will have it printed here at such time it occurs. The investigative unit is probably a facade, but I will see and so will readers of my blog. I am intentionally printing my letter openly because I want the public to be able to scrutinize the correspondence. I remain skeptical about whether the investigative unit will be effective but will see what happens as will the readers of my blog. Here is my letter:

June 6, 2012

Anita Alvarez, Cook County State's Attorney
69 West Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Ms. Alvarez:

Not long ago, I read an article in the Chicago Sun Times reporting you created a 6 person unit to investigate claims of wrongful conviction. I tend to believe your announcement is purely a public relations move to give the appearance your office actually cares about justice. I spoke to my attorney about the matter and she is of the same opinion. I was told not to bother writing you because it would be a waste of time. However, I have been incarcerated over 19 years for a murder I did not commit nor had anything to do with. Attorney after attorney, court after court, and governor after governor have already wasted most of my life. I have nothing to lose by contacting your office and offering the enclosed proof of my innocence.

My arrest occurred in 1993 after my co-defendant Robert Faraci and his wife, Rose, told police I committed the mass murder of seven people at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine, as well as another person in a wooded area of Barrington. Although police and the State's Attorney's Office inferred to the public the mass murder was solved, I was only charged and prosecuted for the latter crime. In 1995, Robert Faraci and I were tried simultaneously but by separate juries for the murder of Dean Fawcett. Before the trial began, Rose Faraci came forward to admit she conspired with her husband to lie and frame me of the murders to prevent Robert from going back to prison. Despite this revelation, prosecutors refused to drop the charges against me and instead proceeded with a case via a theory of accountability.

At trial, the state's case was based on the testimony of John Robertson, an investigator from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office who had been assigned to the Palatine Task Force. He claimed that during his interrogation of me I admitted Robert Faraci told me he was going to kill the victim and I thereafter lent him my car. This is absolutely false, but my defense attorney refused to contest Robertson's lies. I vehemently argued with my lawyer's trial strategy and demanded he critically cross examine Robertson's testimony. I, furthermore, demanded that I and others testify how glaringly false and incredible his testimony was. However, lead attorney Bill Von Hoene threatened to quit in the middle of my trial, and continued to do things his way.

My attorney argued to the jury that although Robertson's testimony was true, it did not make me accountable for the actions of my co-defendant. The argument was undermined by the prosecutors who lied and convoluted the law during closing arguments. Von Hoene requested a mistrial, but at the minimum asked for the jury to receive curative instructions about the statute as ruled by Illinois' courts. This motion was denied and after several days of sequestered deliberations, my jury found me guilty, not knowing the man they held me accountable for was acquitted. Judge Sam Amirante, noting there was no evidence to demonstrate I was at the crime scene, still sentenced me to natural life without the possibility of parole.

In December 1992, I lived with Robert and Rose Faraci at their Schiller Park apartment. On the 28th, the day prosecutors contend Dean Fawcett was killed in Barrington, I was at my sister's home in Thornton until after midnight. Before I left the apartment, Robert Faraci never said anything about killing the victim. I also never saw him with a gun on that day nor did I lend him my vehicle. In fact, I used my car to travel to the S.E. suburb. When I returned to the apartment, the Faracis seemed normal and I did not notice anything irregular. I had no idea Robert had killed Fawcett earlier and came back with blood on his clothes which were disposed of by his wife.

These are not simply self-serving statements which lack corroboration. Both my sister and brother-in-law informed my trial attorneys that I and my Ford Mustang were at their home which is close to 50 miles away from the crime scene. They are absolutely certain of the date, despite my arrest months later, because December 28th is our father's birthday. My sister had called him to wish him a happy birthday and urged me to talk to him also. She thought this was an opportune time for us to make up for an argument which led to me moving out. Rose Faraci admitted to seeing her husband come home covered in blood and although she denied at trial destroying his clothes, she told Richard Lantini earlier that she had destroyed them. Before the Grand Jury, Rose also testified I left on the 28th in my own car, but this, like the blood evidence found in Faraci's Pontiac Firebird, was intentionally not brought to the attention of my jury. Even Robert Faraci, since my conviction, has given an affidavit stating he did not use my car on the 28th of December. He still will not admit to killing Fawcett, however, I think it is obvious from evidence available at trial, and the various people he has confessed to since and have provided affidavits which are enclosed.

My defense attorney, William Von Hoene, was a very good lawyer at the law firm of Jenner & Block, but he lacked criminal trial experience. In my opinion, he made a colossal blunder in trial strategy not contesting the testimony of the interrogating officer. Earlier at a pre-trial suppression motion, John Robertson's credibility was obliterated and although the judge denied the motion, I request your office and/or the independent panel to review it. It is obvious my Miranda rights were violated and I was abused by the interrogating officers. The lack of any corroboration of my alleged statements also I believe makes Robertson's claims highly questionable. My co-defendant and many other people questioned by him and other members of the Palatine Task Force signed waivers of Miranda. They also were asked to sign or make written statements. Robert Faraci gave various signed, written, stenographed, and audio recorded statements all with waivers of Miranda included. There were witnesses to my arrest who testified I immediately asked for a lawyer upon my arrest and I continued to do so throughout the hours and hours of my two day interrogation. These requests were ignored and at times when I continued, I was struck or kicked. Because I refused to answer questions, I was intimidated, threatened, and assaulted. A blue sheet was placed over the two-way mirror so no one could see into the interrogation room. This was not taken down until Asst. State's Attorney Pat O'Brien visited me and I told him of the abuse. He denied this later, but nevertheless, it is true. I was not tortured like some suspects claim they were by Commander Jon Burge. However, my Miranda rights were clearly violated and I was coerced to make statements. Most importantly, these statements were in part fabricated or manipulated by John Robertson.

The reason why there is no corroboration to the interrogating officer's testimony is because I never waived my Miranda rights and what I said was falsified. Yes, both Rose and Robert Faraci borrowed my car on occasion while we lived together, but not on the 28th of December 1992. Yes, Robert Faraci possessed guns and sometimes carried them, but I never saw him with one on the day he killed Fawcett. Robert Faraci even talked about shooting, killing, whacking, and making people disappear. I have even heard a story about how he put a man in a meat grinder, but never did he tell me he was going to kill Fawcett. I have wrongfully been held accountable for the actions of my co-defendant and despite the prosecutor's arguments, I should not be guilty by association.

The prosecution theorized Fawcett was killed to prevent him from possibly talking to police. This was based on the very incredible testimony of Nadine Lenarczyk who was already working with police in another fraud case to lessen her punishment. Regardless, it was the victim who devised the check scam. It was he who opened up the bank account, deposited phony checks to deceive the bank, and wrote all the checks except for a few which were forged by Robert and Rose Faraci. I do not deny receiving any merchandise purchased by Fawcett with bounced checks. However, I did not coerce or encourage him to do so as Brian Palasz and others testified or can tell you. Your office can also see a few of the checks say "gift for Paul". The idea I would kill or abet Faraci in a murder because I was his "good buddy," "partner," or etc., is absurd. Unfortunately, I made a terrible mistake having Robert as a friend and moving in with him, but I had nothing to do with the murder of Fawcett.

After my conviction, members of my jury were interviewed. A few stated they would not have voted guilty had they been aware my co-defendant was acquitted. From interviews, I also learned the jury convicted me more so for allowing Fawcett to go off to his death with Faraci than for lending my car. The judge also said before sentencing me to life in prison that he was giving me the same hope I left Fawcett: no hope. This is simply not true and my attorney knew it was false, but as a matter of trial strategy he told the jury Robertson's testimony was accurate. My attorney knew that although such inaction may be deemed morally reprehensible, it did not constitute criminal liability. Possibly, if Cook County Asst. States Attorney's Paul Tsukuno and James McKay did not lie about or manipulate the laws of accountability, I would not be at Stateville 17 years later.

I am enclosing a number of documents, transcripts, and affidavits to collaborate what I have written in this letter. I will also have my family send your office my Petition for Executive Clemency with its vast documentation as well as other evidence I do not currently have in my cell. I believe the Clemency Petition will answer any question you or the panel reviewing claims of wrongful convictions will have. However, if there is other information I may provide, I am willing to answer any questions in person, provided my attorney or an independent third party is present. My attorney's name is Jennifer xxxxxx and you may reach her at xxx-xxx-xxx. She will be filing a successive post conviction petition later this year based in part on actual innocence.

From my understanding of the law, the State's Attorney's Office cannot unilaterally release a prisoner. However, you may petition the court or Governor's office. Asst. State's Attorney James McKay has already argued against my Clemency Petition which is pending, but you can overrule him and tell Governor Quinn you agree to my release. When my appeal is before the court, you also have the power not to contest it. At the very least, I should hope you will allow my appeal to be heard on its merits and not attempt to have it dismissed on some technicality of law. You claim to be interested in justice and not merely maintaining convictions. I would like to believe this is true.


Paul Modrowski


Update: January 28, 2013

I never thought I would receive a response from the state's attorneys office but today I was surprised to be handed a letter that read:   "This letter is to confirm that the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Conviction Integrity Unit has received your request to review your conviction. This case is in the process of being reviewed. If you have any additional information that will assist the Office in reviewing this case, please send it as soon as possible. The information should be sent to the postal address below."  It was signed by Shelley Keane, Assistant State's Attorney, Conviction Integrity Unit.

It is a very brief letter and I tend to believe it is the standard reply sent to all prisoners asking for their case to be reviewed. Hopefully, this Conviction Integrity Unit is authentic and not a farce. I still believe it is a public relations arm of the IL State's Attorney's office and has no independence or authority.

I will update as things occur.

Update: January 4, 2015 

After sending huge amounts of evidence to substantiate my claims, and receiving the above acceptance letter from the Conviction Integrity Unit, I was dismayed to receive a one paragraph letter today.  My original thoughts that this was merely a publicity stunt to make people believe Anita Alvarez was truly interested in justice were correct. 

The one paragraph reads:

"I am in receipt of your inquiry letter requesting that the Conviction Integrity Unit review your case. Pursuant to your claim of wrongful conviction, we have examined your case. Based upon our review, we have determined that your claim is without merit and does not warrant any further investigation on our part at this time."  

(Signed on December 23, 2014 by Susan Caraher who works for the Office of the State's Attorney)  

Update:  January 15, 2015

Blog helpers advised not to publish my entire letter because it "names names".  So here is part of my response to Susan Caraher at the Conviction Integrity Unit:

Dear Ms. Caraher:

I am in receipt of your letter where you claim to have reviewed my murder conviction and have determined there is no doubt that I am guilty. May I inquire how you came to this conclusion? What evidence did you specifically examine? There was no evidence presented at my trial that I killed Dean Fawcett or was even at the crime scene. Judge Sam Amirante precluded the death penalty based upon this finding. My conviction was based exclusively on the dubious theory that I was accountable for the actions of my roommate Robert Faraci despite his acquittal by a separate jury. Furthermore, although my attorney chose not to contest the statements made by the investigator from your office, there was ample evidence he falsely testified that I admitted lending my car to Robert Faraci on the day he allegedly killed the victim. Since Anita Alvarez created the Conviction Integirtyy Unit, I knew it was a farce to dupe the public to believe the Cook County States Attorney's Office believed in truth and justice. It believes in neither and its refusal to consider any of the following evidence is testament to that.

(A list of 12 people along with portions of their affidavits or testimony supporting Paul's innocence has been omitted here.)

For 22 years, I have been incarcerated in maximum security facilities for a crime I had no involvement in nor was even aware occurred until months later. I will spend the rest of my life in prison although the actual killer was acquitted. I made a simple request that my conviction be reviewed and not a single person was contacted. Not one inquiry was made to my knowledge, yet you determined there was no merit to my claim of innocence. The Cook County States Attorney's Office is already fully aware I am innocent but will never admit to fault. The purpose of the Conviction Integrity Unit is not the integrity of convictions but to maintain convictions whenever possible. You, Susan Caraher, should be ashamed to be a part of this fraud committed against the people of Illinois.

Paul Modrowski