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Injustice in the Justice System: Why Innocent People are Wrongfully Convicted

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 9 Tammuz 5780

7:30 PM - 9:00 PM

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Bio and Background on Douglas Hoff re Robert Wilson

     In 1999, Robert Wilson was convicted of the attempt murder of June Siler, who had been attacked by a man with a utility knife while she was standing at a CTA bus stop. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, and he appealed his conviction in Illinois courts, which affirmed his conviction. In 2005, the Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions agreed to represent Mr. Wilson in a Federal habeas corpus petition. Jane Raley and Karen Daniel, working with law students Luis Pinedo and Negar Takeei, succeeded in convincing Federal Judge Ruben Castillo that Mr. Wilson's right to present a defense had been violated when the trial judge had excluded evidence that another man had committed a series of similar attacks in the area at around the same time.
     When Ms. Siler was shown the evidence that had not been presented at trial, she immediately recanted her identification of Mr. Wilson and has ever since been adamant that he was not her attacker. The State did not retry Mr. Wilson for the attack, nor did it charge the man who likely committed it.
     Doug Hoff, supervised by Karen's husband Alan Goldberg, represented Mr. Wilson in one of his Illinois appeals. Doug is currently the Assistant Deputy Defender at the Chicago office of the Office of the State Appellate Defender. He has practiced criminal appeals for 27 years, in both Missouri and Illinois, and he lives in Riverside.

 

Bio and Background on Ronald Safer and Kristine Bunch

     Ronald S. Safer is a founding member of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP, where he manages complex, high-stakes cases with a focus in white collar crime and civil litigation.

Ron has successfully represented companies and individuals in matters such as accounting fraud, tax fraud, anti-kickback violations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), environmental violations, and securities fraud. He represents clients before the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and numerous state agencies.

     Ron began his career at Schiff Hardin, LLP.  He was a general litigation associate until he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago in 1989.  He rose to Chief of the Criminal Division, successfully prosecuting more than one hundred defendants during his tenure including the leaders of the Gangster Disciple street gang – the largest monolithic gang in the country. He prosecuted cases ranging from complex financial frauds and public corruption to sophisticated continuing criminal enterprises.

     In 1999, Ron returned to private practice with a Chicago-based national law firm. He served as managing partner from 2005-2015.

     In 2004, Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Conviction recruited Ron to work on the case of Julie Rea, who had been wrongfully convicted of killing her son.  Ron partnered with Karen Daniel and Jeff Urdangen in successfully retrying Julie’s case and obtaining an acquittal. 
     
Karen and Ron, along with Jane Raley represented Kristine Bunch in her post-conviction proceeding.  Kristine had been convicted of the arson murder of her son on the “strength” of junk science related to arsons.  Eighteen years later, Karen and Jane assembled the world’s experts in fire science to testify in the post-conviction proceeding.  They explained that not only was the State’s case based on flawed assumptions, but chemical, physical and biological principles demonstrated that Kristine could not have set this fire.  The Indiana Court of Appeals ultimately agreed and freed Kristine after 18 years.

Since her release, Kristine co-founded Justis 4 Justus – a non-profit that builds community support for the exonerated. You can learn more about Justis 4 Justus at www.justis4justus.org. 
 

Jeff Urdangen and Alan Beaman

     In 1995, Alan Beaman was convicted by a jury in central Illinois of murdering Jennifer Lockmiller, a 22-year-old student at Illinois State University. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Jennifer and Alan attended college in the same town and he was her ex-boyfriend at the time of the killing.  In 2008 the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial. The following year prosecutors dismissed the case against Alan. In 2013 a circuit court judge granted him a Certificate of Innocence, and in 2015 Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned Alan Beaman based on actual innocence. He had served 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. No one else has been arrested for the Lockmiller crime.
     
Alan married Gretchen Hasenzahl in December, 2010. The couple have two daughters, ages 16 and 7. Alan is employed by Gleason Cutting Tools Corporation in Rockford as an application engineer.

 

     Jeff Urdangen has been a criminal defense attorney for nearly 40 years. He was in private practice when in 2003 he joined the clinic faculty at the Northwestern University School of Law. For 16 years Jeff was the Director of that clinic’s Center for Criminal Defense. He and Karen became close friends and colleagues during that time, though they were professionally acquainted a few years earlier. Jeff has represented Alan since 1996. Soon before he joined the law school faculty, Karen signed on as Alan’s co-counsel. Jeff remains one of Alan’s lawyers in his civil action for damages against the Normal, Illinois police responsible for his wrongful conviction.
     Jeff retired from Northwestern eight months ago. Since then he has been Of Counsel at the Chicago law firm Riley Safer Holmes & Cancilla.

 

Read about the Cases Here:

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Alan BEAMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

 

In the Court of Appeals of Indiana
KRISTINE BUNCH, Appellant-Petitioner

 

United States District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division
ROBERT WILSON, Petitioner

 

Robert Wilson
Father of three spends a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit

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Thu, July 2 2020 10 Tammuz 5780