News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 7, 2012

Exonerated death row inmate to speak at ISU

Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Illinois Death Row exonerate Randy Steidl will speak at Indiana State University at 2 p.m. Oct. 15 in the Heritage Ballroom in Tirey Hall.

Steidl, from Paris, Ill., spent 12 years on death row before being freed. His talk is free and open to the public.

“It is important for our students, as future criminal justice practitioners, to realize the consequences of their actions,” said DeVere Woods, criminology and criminal justice department chair. “The Steidl case was not matter of unfortunate mistakes misleading a criminal investigation. People involved in this case abused the public trust and abandoned their responsibility to justice. The system that is supposed to protect us was corrupted to allow murderers to remain free while innocent individuals were sentenced to death.”

Steidl was convicted in Illinois for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads and sentenced to death eleven months later in 1987 even as he maintained his innocence. In 1999, after serving 12 years on the state's death row, a judge reduced Steidl's sentence to life in prison without the chance of parole after finding that his trial attorney had not properly prepared his defense case.

Five years later, U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey overturned Steidl's conviction, ruling that it would have been reasonably probable for a jury to acquit Steidl if his attorney did a better job of presenting his defense.

In 2004, after serving 17 years in prison, 12 of them on death row, he became the 18th person in Illinois' history to be freed for a wrongful conviction after serving time on death row. Steidl's unique story proved to be instrumental in Illinois' decision to abolish capital punishment in 2011, after he provided a compelling account of his ordeal.