Archive for the ‘Gregory Clark’s murder’ Category


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Well, it has been over 9 very long years for our friend, Richard Wanke, who is finally going to trial. His jury selection ended this morning and last minute matters will be heard tomorrow morning. Then, his trial begins Monday with opening statements.

Opening statements from each side will summarize what each side plans to prove by their evidence. Then, from that point forward we get to judge how well they do.

We want to thank everyone who has supported Richard over the years and those who have also contributed and helped with this blog. We hope to see you at trial!

WHERE: 4th floor, old Winnebago County Courthouse, 401 W. State St., Rockford, IL (Take elevators to the fourth floor and follow corridor right around to the very last courtroom; Judge Collins court in room 478.

WHEN: Beginning Monday 2/27/17, at 9am.

PLEASE: Remember to turn cellphones off (they get confiscated if they go off in courtroom), no cameras or recorders are allowed, and please sit on the Defense side (left side of courtroom and behind the defendant) in support of Richard.

Thank-you.

 

 


An AP article was just posted about a defendant in Atlanta, GA who has been sitting in jail and waiting to go to trial for the past 10 years:

“Kharon Davis has spent nearly 10 years in jail. He’s had four sets of attorneys, with two judges on the bench. His co-defendants’ cases have wrapped up. Davis has appeared in court for several hearings, and a new prosecutor is assigned.

But Davis has had no trial. There’s been no jury, no verdict, no conviction. Police say he killed a man in a drug deal gone wrong, but he hasn’t had his day in court. He’s charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty. Trial dates have come and gone, and it’s now scheduled for September. By then, 10 years and three months will have passed since the crime.

The Constitution guarantees suspects “the right to a speedy trial.” Capital cases often take a year or longer to get to trial, but 10 years is rare – experts call it shocking and say it could be unconstitutional. Prisoner advocates and court-watchers say such delays take an exhaustive toll on suspects stuck behind bars and on victims’ families, who are robbed of closure that can come from trials…”

Read the full article at: http://www.waff.com/story/34537151/10-years-in-jail-and-still-no-trial-for-murder-suspect

 And, locally, the Richard Wanke case

Since yesterday, when it was announced that jury selection for Richard Wanke’s trial for the murder of Greg Clark has just started, some persons have been expressing surprise on social media that it has taken so long for this trial to start and wondering how and why this can happen. Wanke’s case isn’t taking 10 years to come to trial like Kharon Davis’s case, but it is now over 9 years since the Clark murder occurred in 2008, and the effect in Davis’s and Richard’s cases are the same; they have both spent literally years behind bars without their guilt or innocence being heard at trial. This amazes people because it’s hard for them to imagine just sitting in jail so long without trial or the right to one. We all generally believe that justice works faster and that people are protected from such harm until trial.

Yet both been Kharon Davis and Richard Wanke have been stuck in this legal quandary for years unable to do anything about it. 

The way each was put into legal limbo differs, but they’ve have no remedy. The Davis article discusses the constitutional right of defendants to a “Speedy Trial”, which, if exercised by a defendant can ensure that the defendant is brought to trial within a relatively short time span; sometimes that of a year and-a-half. This is important because serious cases virtually ensure that defendants are held jailed and held without bond the entire time they await trial.

What the Davis article fails to clarify is that currently the right to a speedy trial is interpreted to apply only to ensure that the State must not delay and if the speedy trial right is invoked by a defendant, then the State is forced to act and take you to trial quickly or the courts can throw a case out or dismiss it even without trial due to overlong delay. The Davis article does not say if Davis or his attorneys ever submitted a speedy trial request. Richard Wanke did so on his own the first time he appeared in Winnebago County court on the murder charge. If Davis’s attorneys did not protect his right, then they were ineffective at the time and may have cost him the opportunity to properly challenge the State.

The problem is that the Right to a Speedy Trial is not regarded as enforceable when the defendant’s own attorney or defense delays trial, and this has been the predicament facing both Davis and Richard Wanke  for the past several years. 

The Davis article explains how Davis has been harmed by repeated delays by his attorneys. His first attorney, Benjamin Meredith, should have immediately known to step off the case because his son was involved in it’s investigation. His second attorney, Derek Yarbrough, apparently took his sweet time or did nothing on the case till Davis yelled and had him removed. His third attorney had a conflict-of-interest and it appropriately only took him a few weeks to withdraw. His 4th, and most important attorney who will probably be stuck doing the job and representing Davis properly, has only been on the case since June 2016, and will now have a very hard time coming up to speed on it and doing the basic work on the case which probably hasn’t been done. Now, after all this time that county court although it wouldn’t comment on the handling of Davis’s case, it is probably aware of it and might now monitor it carefully to bring it to trial relatively quickly. Of course, there’s also a new prosecutor on the case so if Davis files his Speedy request now, it might now just apply.

In Richard Wanke’s situation, the State completely investigated his case and still waited years past 2008 to charge him with the murder, gambling on the small probability that it would uncover new, definitive evidence of his guilt. That says more about the weakness of the State’s case against Richard Wanke than anything else. Six years later in 2014, when it did charge him, the State was fully prepared and the defense was non-existant. From then to now, the trial delay has been caused by the defense taking time to learn the case and defend it. Richard hasn’t been able to do anything about that delay except sit waiting in jail.

The Davis article mentions how exhausting and stressful the wait for trial is. Just the example of the machinations in Davis’s defense team above illustrate the rise and fall of stress a defendant can face while waiting to learn his fate. It also mentions a likelihood that defendants will be physically (or psychologically too) damaged by the long wait in jail in close confinement, even in isolation, and away from those they love.  Davis’ mother says her son’s health is “suffering”. He was age 22 when first arrested. Since arrested in 2008, Richard Wanke’s health, aged 49 too has suffered from imprisonment and, he will appear at trial using court head-phones to hear, because he’s lost 50% of his hearing by an assault behind bars.

While both Davis and Wanke might have a legal claim on the unconstitutionality of the time and process they have endured to get to trial, the reader can bet they’d have a difficult time finding an attorney to aggressively fight the issue for them. This is just one of the ways in which defendants regularly lose out in the criminal justice system.


ROCKFORD — “It’s breathtaking. Oh my goodness,” a Rockford man said after emerging from the Winnebago County Jail into the sunshine this afternoon after more than 23 years behind bars for a murder he and his supporters maintain he didn’t commit.John Horton Jr., 40, was convicted of the 1993 murder of Arthur Castaneda in Rockford. Horton was 17 years old when Castaneda was fatally shot during a robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant, located at that time at 2715 Charles St. He was sentenced

Source: John Horton of Rockford free after more than 2 decades in prison


By Isaac Guerrero Staff writer
ROCKFORD – Woman shot while sitting at kitchen table in Rockford home. 1 dead, 1 injured in shooting. 5 homes hit by gunfire.

Headlines like those, posted to our website and plastered on the pages of this newspaper in recent weeks, sound scary. But experts say you shouldn’t confuse fear of crime with the actual risk of crime, which has been declining in Rockford since 2000. Violent crime, however, the stuff that captures headlines, has risen.

All but four of the 32 homicides in Winnebago County last year – the county’s highest homicide tally since 1996 – were in Rockford, where violent crime in 2015 increased 24 percent compared with 2014. The latest statistics from the FBI reveal violent crime increased 6 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.

But is our fear of violent crime greater than our risk of violent crime? Because there’s lots of things in Rockford to be afraid of.

Rockford police reported in 2014 that there were 19 times as many people injured in car accidents – 1,211 – as were injured by gunfire – 104.

There were an average 29 suicides, 634 cancer deaths and 339 deaths attributed to heart disease annually from 2007 through 2011 in Winnebago County, according to Rockford Health Council. There were an average 20 homicides a year in the county during the same five-year period.

“People take risks on the fly every day,” said Kirk Miller, a criminologist and professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University.

“They’ll run through a yellow light, for example, which empirically represents a much larger risk in terms of your physical well-being and others’ well-being. But it’s more acceptable in society to run a yellow light because that doesn’t capture the fear and anxiety of these more dramatic events like a mass shooting or a homicide in an otherwise well-regarded location like a school or an airport or a good neighborhood.”

Source: Weighing fear and danger in Rockford as the city’s violent crime rate rises


Source: Prison treats inmates too harshly – Rockford Register Star


Richard’s case was set for jury trial today, but really stood little chance of going forward. The State became aware that one of it’s expert witnesses who lives out of state is unable to appear at trial now in November due to her medical condition. It is a general prerequisite in criminal trials that witnesses testify at trial in-person, because all defendants have the legal right to face their accusers and cross-examine them in-person. Judge Collins knows this and does not want to allow anything wrong to happen in Richard’s case which can be reversed later on appeal.  The State tried to argue that with modern technology, the witness could appear via Skype, but no Illinois caselaw supports this, so Collins was forced, once again, to reset the trial date. Any trial delay, like this which is caused by the State is usually assessed against the State’s deadline to bring someone to trial in a timely manner, but Collins assessed the delay to Richard instead.  However, the State lost in it’s attempt to have her to reschedule the trial to Feb 6, 2016. It will now instead begin on February 21, 2016, barring the occurrence of any other delays.

A number of issues still remain to be decided by Judge Collins anyways concerning what evidence will be allowed to be presented by each side and how the evidence will be presented. Any trial delay now is minor considering, it took the State years to charge this case in the first place. This delay does however, give the defense additional time now to prepare it’s witnesses and evidence and hopefully procure some expert testimony on Richard’s behalf. Richard’s attorneys have cited a lack of time in which to do this and this delay should now take away that excuse.


Decatur – Today Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice, Rita B. Garman, announced that news cameras are permitted in Illinois courtrooms.   The decision comes after a four year pilot project which allowed media cameras in certain courtrooms on an experimental basis.   Macon County State’s Attorney, Jay Scott, says he’s not a big fan of the Extended Media Coverage or (EMC).   “I really wasn’t in favor of it when they came out with the idea of cameras in the courtroom,” says Scott. “After doing the one trial that’s been televised in Macon County it’s like we didn’t even know the cameras were there.”   Scott says that he thinks the cameras could create an uncomfortable atmosphere for witnesses.   “I think is some cases you’re going to have people not wanting to come to court to testify,” says Scott. “I think in those situations when you’re dealing with very dangerous criminals that are on trial it could have an intimidating effect on witnesses.”   According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the continued goal of promoting transparency, accountability and accessibility to the court system is why cameras were implemented in courtrooms.   Only 15 judicial circuits in the state of Illinois have been approved to use cameras in courtrooms. Those circuits that have not joined will not be forced to do so.   Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial Court in Illinois, Dan Flannell, says that Macon County has been a part of the pilot project and will now be grandfathered in with the new policy to continue to have EMC in the courtrooms.

Source: Illinois Supreme Court adopts permanent policy for Extended Media Coverage in courtrooms | NowDecatur