Joseph Beringer

Perjury and prosecutorial misconduct led to Joseph Beringer's wrongful conviction

Joseph Beringer and his brother Kenneth were convicted of murder and conspiracy in 1983 in connection with the slaying two years earlier of Joanne Barkauskas, who was gunned down on her way to work by a man identified by an eyewitness as James Galason.

Galason confessed and ultimately testified that the victim's husband, Edward Barkauskas, had contracted with him to commit the crime for a share of her life insurance proceeds. In exchange for leniency, however, Galason agreed to implicate the Beringer brothers in the crime. Galason claimed that Joseph Beringer had been the actual shooter, and that Kenneth Beringer had helped steal a car used in the crime and had been present when the crime was carried out.

Galason's testimony was contradicted by the only eyewitness to the crime, Harvey Webb, who testified that he saw Galason alone kill the victim. Further doubt was cast on Galason's testimony by Edward Barkauskas, who — while denying the conspiracy — admitted meeting with Galason. Barkauskas testified that he had never met either of the Beringers.

'Brazen' prosecutorial misconduct

In what the Illinois Appellate Court branded "brazen misconduct," Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Kenneth Wadas accused Galason of scheming with defense counsel to exonerate the Beringers. In reversing Joseph Beringer's conviction in 1987, the court held that the cross examination had no factual basis. The court also found that Wadas had engaged in improper closing argument that seemed "designed to finish the disparagement of defense counsel's integrity."

Kenneth Beringer's conviction was reversed on the same grounds five months later, and the prosecution dropped the charges against the brothers.