Comments of Rory Steidl
Rory Steidl, left, addresses news media outside Danville Correctional Center on May 28, 2004, following the release of his brother, Gordon (Randy) Steidl, who served seventeen years in prison for a murder he did not commit. To Rory's left are, rear from left, Karen Daniel, Bill Clutter, and Jane Raley, and, front row, Michael Metnick and Patty Steidl. Photo: Loren Santow
Remarks of Rory Steidl upon the release of his wrongfully condemned brother
I know some of you in the media, some of you I do not, so I want to clarify the capacity in which I stand before you today... I'm speaking only as Randy Steidl's brother, and as family spokesman.
I want to preface my comments by speaking briefly about the true victims in this case . . . Dyke and Karen Rhoads. They suffered a brutal and heinous death. Their families and friends will always suffer the unspeakable effects of trying to cope with their murder. And we recognize that today... they are left with unanswered questions.
While we are happy to be here to celebrate Randy's freedom, we recognize the pain that the Rhoads and Spesard families continue to suffer.
First and foremost, we want to thank the good Lord for seeing us through to this day and for guiding Randy to his dedicated defense team... If not for the efforts of that dedicated group of individuals... my family and I would not be standing before you today, celebrating my brother's freedom:
Michael Metnick... and his private investigator Bill Clutter; Larry Marshall, Legal Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law; Karen Daniel, Senior Staff Attorney, Center on Wrongful Convictions; Kathy Saltmarsh, of the State Appellate Defender's Office; Jane Raley, Senior Staff Attorney, Center on Wrongful Convictions and many others who have contributed to seeing that justice prevailed.
They've worked tirelessly on this case for years, and have never given up the fight for justice.
They doggedly pursued the truth and have never wavered from their commitment to free Randy, based on the facts.
Make no mistake about it... there has always been a small, but determined group of people who wanted to see Randy remain in prison and even executed, despite multiple recantations of the alleged eyewitness, expert testimony that the alleged evidence wasn't what the prosecution portrayed it to be, and other evidence of his innocence.
This isn't a case about a convicted murderer being released on a technicality of "ineffective assistance of counsel"; that is only the issue on which it was brought before a federal judge. The underlying issues are that Randy's trial attorney failed to challenge the alleged eyewitness testimony by failing to call witnesses who would have placed her at work the night of the murders; failed to solicit expert testimony which has since determined that the alleged murder weapon was not the murder weapon; and testimony from the state's own experts who would have testified that the lamp which was said to have been broken during the murders... was in fact broken as the fire was being extinguished. Even sadder is the fact that... had it not been for Randy's defense team pursuing these and other truths, the prosecution would have had Randy executed years ago.
It's ironic and sad, but the evidence, or lack thereof, hasn't really changed in 17 years... the only thing which has continually changed is the story told by the alleged eyewitness.
My brother's case is truly an example of why a convicted person's access to the courts and their appeals process should not be restricted.
This case should also be a reminder to not only every judge, prosecutor and police officer... but to the community as well: we all have a duty to ensure that the criminal justice process is administered fairly... at every step.
Thank God for Federal Judge Michael McCuskey. Judge McCuskey made an honest effort to examine this case based on the facts and applicable law, not simply rubber-stamping the decision of a lower court. And... our thanks to the Illinois Attorney General's Office, for their thorough and unbiased review of the case. And... we're appreciative that State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor David Rands also saw the deficiencies in this case.
There are several people, in various capacities, who have helped Randy and our family over the years, and others who continue to help in various capacities, but as much as we'd like to thank them publicly, we can't thank everyone. Suffice it to say, no matter your degree of support... it is greatly appreciated.
The past 17 years have been hell on Randy and on our family. I want to personally recognize my brother for the strength and faith he has exhibited.
I can't imagine the despair of facing each day, for 12 years, knowing that someone, someday is going to kill you for a crime you didn't commit.
Many lesser men would not have survived this ordeal.
For those who continue to call for a shortened appeals process and quick executions... let this and previously-overturned death penalty cases be a constant reminder to you. Our system is not perfect. It's comprised of people'some of whom have agendas, some of whom are blinded to the truth, some who have blind allegiance... and others who simply don't care.
It's our duty, as members of society, whether we're private citizens, police officers, prosecutors or judges, to always look at the facts. Uphold the law and the constitution we are all sworn to protect... and consider the consequences to everyone if we fail.
It's time that everyone does what's right, stand tall, shoot straight and ALWAYS speak the truth. Thanks.