Imagine being sentenced to 26 years in prison for a murder you didn’t commit. In fact, it’s not even clear if a murder was even committed to begin with because a body has never been found. After you’ve spent years in prison, the state’s star witness finally admits that he made up his testimony against you to cut himself a deal. It almost sounds impossible, but time and time again cases like this pop up in the Illinois and national media. How do you regain your freedom and clear your good name? The answer is to file an appeal in the Illinois court system.
The Case of People v. Casciaro
People v. Casciaro involved a defendant accused of killing a 17-year-old boy who went missing in the small town of Johnsburg, a distant Chicago suburb, 2002. The boy has not been scene since, but no body was ever discovered. He is now presumed dead by investigators. In building their case, prosecutors argued that the teen was killed at a grocery store where he was last scene and the defendant worked. Blood spatter found by investigators in the store belonged to the boy, but no other physical evidence connected the defendant to any crime, or even indicated a murder took place.
In 2009, another employee of the store with previous felony convictions was facing 12 years in prison on drug charges. He told McHenry County prosecutors that the defendant killed the boy to settle drug debts. The initial trial against the defendant ended in a mistrial, but he was convicted of murder at a second trial 2013 and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Following this trial, the witness publicly admitted his story about the murder was false and said the defendant was not involved in any murder. When the case came before the court of appeals last year, it was dismissed as an obvious case of a jury convicting when there was no evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The court of appeals called the evidence against the defendant “lacking and improbable.”
However, prosecutors still sought to appeal this decision, taking it to the Illinois Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the Court simply refused to hear the case, meaning that the decision of the appellate court stands, and the conviction is overturned.
Casciaro is an extraordinary case involving a large amount of questionable evidence and a lengthy sentence, but it is also a testament to how good appellate work by an Illinois attorney can result in an unjust conviction being vacated.
Need Legal Help?
The appellate system exists so that mistakes on the parts of witnesses and prosecutors can be reviewed and reversed. Innocent people should not be forced to do prison time for crimes that they never committed. A knowledgeable appellate attorney may be able to get a serious criminal conviction vacated and a prison sentence substantially reduced. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.