The ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will sponsor Georgetown’s lecture featuring death row exoneree Randy Steidl. Steidl will be speaking for free in the Cralle Student Center Hall of Fame room on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 11 a.m.
In a CNN interview Steidl described his experience on death row as “Torture—actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wanted to kill me for something I did not do.”
Georgetown Professor Stephen Mergner believes it is important to provide this opportunity to students, “It is the mission of Georgetown to prepare the future leaders of tomorrow. Our students will soon find themselves in the position of power that will necessitate them weighing their personal convictions against the realities of life. It is essential that they take this opportunity to witness firsthand the consequences of legal errors.”
Randy Steidl and his co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.
The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack, and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing and subsequent bloodshed that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.
It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern University students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Randy’s innocence to call for a new trial. The absence of evidence tying Steidl to the crime resulted in the dismissal of all charges and on May 28, 2004 Randy Steidl was a free man. Steidl was the 18th person to be released from Illinois’ death row due to a wrongful conviction.
Steidl is now the chair of Witness to Innocence, the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors. He is actively engaged in the struggle to end the death penalty and was integral to the passage of Illinois’s abolition bill last year.
Steidl’s visit comes weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the Death Penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report outlining the serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.