Wrongfully convicted death row prisoner serves as criminology guest speaker

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
April 7, 2011

A man who spent 12 years on death row will be speaking at Indiana State University about his experience before a judge freed him.

Randy Steidl will speak on "Wrongfully Convicted" at 2:15 p.m. April 13 in Room 103 of Holmstedt Hall. The presentation is free to attend students, staff and members of the public to attend.

Steidl was convicted in Illinois for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads and sentenced to death eleven months later in 1987 even as he maintained his innocence. In 1999, after serving 12 years on the state's death row, a judge reduced Steidl's sentence to life in prison without the chance of parole after finding that his trial attorney had not properly prepared his defense case.

Five years later, U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey overturned Steidl's conviction, ruling that it would have been reasonably probable for a jury to acquit Steidl if his attorney did a better job of presenting his defense.

In 2004, after serving 17 years in prison, 12 of them on death row, he became the 18th person in Illinois' history to be freed for a wrongful conviction after serving time on death row. Steidl's unique story proved to be instrumental in Illinois' decision to abolish capital punishment in 2011, after he provided a compelling account of his story.

Witness to Innocence Project notified criminology professor Mark Hamm of the opportunity to bring in Steidl as he embarks on a speaking tour throughout the region. The organization, based out of Philadelphia, serves as a platform to release information about wrongfully convicted criminals who were subsequently released.
Students from Hamm's "Danger in Disorder" capstone course will be required to attend the presentation which Hamm feels will be very interesting experience for them.

"Research has shown that students are predominantly in favor of capital punishment," Hamm said. "Americans also support that notion as well, last time I checked it was somewhere around 70 percent for and 30 percent against."

Prior to the presentation, students will be required to read several articles arguing both for and against capital punishment. They will then have the opportunity to hear Steidl's story with the hope of giving them a new perspective on the debate, and a first-hand account to tell both sides of the story.

"Criminology departments have historically been criticized for being anti-capital punishment," Hamm said. "We're looking to provide our students with the opportunity to see the issue from both sides and provide them with the knowledge framework to make their decision from there."

Steidl's talk is sponsored by ISU's department of criminology and criminal justice and Lambda Alpha Epsilon.

Writer: Scott Campbell, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773 or rcampbell10@indstate.edu