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Exonerated death-row inmate to speak at Indiana University campuses

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Randy Steidl, who was nearly executed for a crime he didn't commit and went on to become the public face of the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois, will tell his story during visits to Indiana University campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Steidl will present his lecture, "Convicted, Condemned and Cleared: How an Exonerated Man Helped Abolish the Illinois Death Penalty" at noon April 12 in the Indiana University Maurer School of Law Moot Court Room.  

He will present the same lecture at Indiana University Purdue University – Indianapolis at 7 p.m. April 14 in the IUPUI Campus Center, Room 450C.

After the talk at IUPUI, a panel will discuss whether the death penalty is good public policy. Panelists will include Jim White, a former Indiana state trooper and current faculty member in School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Criminal Justice and Public Safety program; Monica Foster, an internationally known criminal defense attorney who specializes in capital appeals; and Crystal Garcia, a criminologist and faculty member in SPEA's Criminal Justice and Public Safety program.

Steidl spent 17 years in prison, including 12 on death row, after he was convicted in the 1986 murder of two newlyweds in Southern Illinois. According to Witness to Innocence, an organization of exonerated death-row survivors and their loved ones, he received poor legal representation, no DNA evidence was presented in the case, and witnesses fabricated evidence because of police misconduct.

A federal judge ordered a new trial for Steidl in 2003 after the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University got involved and an Illinois State Police investigation cast doubt on the conduct during the murder investigation and trial. The state re-investigated the case, tested DNA evidence and found no link to Steidl, and the state decided against retrying the case.

Steidl left prison in May 2004, becoming the 18th person to go free after serving time on Illinois' death row for a wrongful conviction. He speaks out against the death penalty to state legislatures and civic organizations and on college campuses.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty earlier this month.
 

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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