By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — A $2.5-million settlement check from the Illinois State Police to former death row inmate Randy Steidl must be in hand by June 15, according to records in a civil rights lawsuit pending in federal court.
Monique Bond, state police spokeswoman, could not verify whether the agency anticipates any problems getting the settlement money to Steidl by the deadline specified in federal court documents.
“All I can confirm at this time is that the settlement has been approved,” Bond said.
She also was unable to say how the money will be transferred to Steidl or to whom the check, if there is a check, would be made out.
The settlement was approved in October, but the General Assembly had to appropriate the funds, which will come from the fiscal 2013 budget.
Steidl, who turned 60 last year, spent more than 17 years in prison — 12 on death row — for the 1986 killings of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in their Paris, Ill., home. The two were stabbed to death and their house set on fire.
Steidl was one of two men arrested, tried and convicted for the murders, despite numerous problems with evidence and witnesses. In addition, a former state police investigator, Lt. Michale Callahan, later said he believed Steidl and his co-defendant, Herb Whitlock, were railroaded by authorities and that higher-ups in the Illinois State Police and state government tried to cover up the problems.
A judge eventually ordered Steidl to be either freed or retried, and the Attorney General’s Office refused to try him again. He was released from prison in May 2004. Whitlock was released in 2008.
Steidl in 2005 sued numerous officials — including state police investigators, the east-central Illinois City of Paris, Paris police officers and former Edgar County State’s Attorney Michael McFatridge — in federal court for wrongful conviction, false imprisonment, depriving him of a fair trial, malicious prosecution, conspiracy and emotional distress.
The settlement with the Illinois State Police means the agency will be dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit, which still is pending against some of the other defendants.
Flint Taylor, an attorney with People’s Law Office in Chicago that represents Steidl, said the state has agreed to pay the settlement by June 15.
“We’re hopeful that’s going to happen. We’re in contact with the lawyers for the state, and they’re making every effort to comply,” he said.
He said Steidl has referred to the state police investigators as “criminals with badges.”
“He’s very pleased that the state recognized their role in the frame-up with this settlement, and he’s very much looking forward to going to trial against (the other defendants) if they don’t settle the case at a later time,” Taylor said.
Bond, in previous published reports, said the settlement does not equate to an admission of wrongdoing by the Illinois State Police.
The Illinois State Police remains a defendant in Whitlock’s federal lawsuit. As of the fall, the Illinois State Police had spent more than $3.7 million to defend itself in the lawsuits, according to published reports.
Jayette Bolinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.