Friday, May 15, 2009

Downstate Innocence Project awards reception will also host unveiling of new book

The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, housed at the University of Illinois at Springfield, will host Michale Callahan, former Illinois State Police Commander of Investigations, as he unveils his new book at the Defenders of the Innocent Awards Reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 18, at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield.

In 2000, Michale Callahan was the newly promoted Investigations Commander over a nine-county area in East Central Illinois. His first assignment was to review the fourteen-year-old Paris, Illinois murder of a young, newlywed couple, Dyke and Karen Rhoads. Randy Steidl and Herbert Whitlock were convicted for those murders based primarily on the unreliable testimony of two witnesses. Callahan quickly recognized the injustice of the convictions and called for a reinvestigation of the case, only to be told by his superiors that it was “too politically sensitive.”

The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project was one of a number of organizations that were involved in attempting to exonerate Steidl, who received the death penalty, and Whitlock, who received a life sentence. In particular, Bill Clutter, the Project’s Director of Investigations, was actively involved in critiquing the convictions and generating the evidence that was ultimately used to overturn them and to free both individuals.

In his book, Callahan tells the story about his fight against the attempts to cover up the scandal of the convictions and silence him as he attempted to reopen the investigation. Ultimately, the fight cost him his career and his belief that our system was one of fairness and justice. As stated in the release about his book: “This book is about everyone’s worst nightmare, when the cover-up of any crime becomes more important than the injustice done to the victims. This true story is a warning and foreboding example of just what can happen now that a government can muzzle its employees to cover up its criminal acts.”

Callahan will be present to sell and sign the books for those attending the awards reception. Tickets to the awards reception are $100 and will be available at the door, or make reservations in advance by calling 217/206-7989.

For more information, contact Larry Golden at 217/553-7171.