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My friend Richard Wanke will be tried for the murder of attorney Greg Clark in Rockford’s most sensational courtroom drama perhaps ever. Trial is in Room 487 of the Winnebago County Courthouse with Judge Rosemary Collins presiding.

Attorney Clark, was shot dead on the sidewalk of his home Feb. 6, 2008, in the middle of a severe snowstorm.

Jury selection will begin February 21, 2017.

Greg Clark was a long-time private practice attorney. Rockford’s legal community was rightfully shocked at this brutal murder. They expected an effective investigation and successful prosecution. The proper functioning of our legal system seems to demand this whenever a prominent or well-liked citizen is a victim of violence, because anything less seems unfair to us.

Yet, when sensational murders of prominent citizens put tremendous pressure on police, police officials sometimes make the mistake of rushing to judgement, of targeting the first suspect they uncover. 

I question whether the state has any substantial forensic evidence to hold my friend, Richard Wanke, accountable for Clark’s death. Prosecutors appear to be relying on the questionable eyewitness reports from a blizzard-plagued day eight years ago; and over the passage of time, witnesses become unavailable and their memories less reliable. The one person in charge of the entire investigation in 2008, Greg Lindmark, committed suicide in February 2015, and is no longer even available to answer any of our questions about the direction in which he led the entire investigation from day one. 

The State maintains that it is most reasonable to assume that Clark was a target and that he was killed him by one of his criminal clients. Yet, attorney Greg Clark had a general law practice and represented mostly civil clients. Is it reasonable for the police to assume that a client of Clark’s in a criminal case killed Clark, when statistics show that violence in murders such as his are more likely to arise from family members, friends, or even from clients in more contentious disputes such as divorce or family cases? Richard Wanke fits their bill because he was a criminal client of Clark’s who lost a trial shortly before in 2007. The State alleges that his relationship with Clark was antagonistic enough to cause him to kill him.

Richard was quickly arrested the night of Clark’s death, and was held but not charged. Instead, six months later he was sentenced to 14 years for the theft of a laptop computer that belonged to a Rockford College art professor. No one else was charged with Clark’s murder for six years as the police continued their investigation of the murder. If the police evidence was that clear against Richard, then why this delay? Prosecutors didn’t charge Richard with the crime until April 2014. Was there any new evidence, or is the state going with the evidence they have had for all these years? After the indictment, Richard’s lawyer stated that the police and State showed that no new evidence had been collected.

The State’s story is that Richard had complained about Clark’s representation in his criminal case, and that this motivated him afterward to kill Clark on 2/6/08. Can we believe this? The defense will undoubtable point out that losing a trial seldom causes people to murder their attorney, and that there were other people who knew Clark who may have had better motive to kill him but who were not investigated by police in their rush to judgement.

What will happen at this trial remains to be seen. However, as a long-time friend of Richard Wanke’s I’ve never known him to be a violent person. Instead, I know him to be a level-headed and intelligent human being who worked to resolve problems and to help others. He ran the Peace Store (as a volunteer) on Seventh Street and was a vegetarian who was very involved in community festivals like Block 5 and On The Waterfront. He is a talented artist who can draw wonderfully and was curator of the Ethnic Heritage Museum, In 2008, he was busy editing the newsletter for Stateline Jazz Society, leading a weekly writer’s workshop, and working with the local Mac user group, fixing computers for schools, and fixing computers for friends. He was never known to be physically aggressive or to use a weapon. I know of so many instances over of years when Richard came up with ideas for others and helped them out on projects for free. I also know him to be too sensible to expect that killing anyone after would help him out in any way. I do not believe he killed Clark. 

Also, anybody with any brains knows that if you are going to kill your attorney, it makes more sense to do it before trial or from prison and not before sentencing when that deed will likely add years to any sentence you receive. Richard is intelligent enough to know that and has shown enough patience in working thru the criminal justice system to show that he could never lose his temper enough to become violent.

Richard Wanke’s situation and prosecution has been a dilemma for our community from the start; a question of impartiality. Do our local police conduct investigations well when under major community pressure? Do our prosecutors make the right decisions when the victim is a member of the legal community and someone they know? Can and should our local public defenders have to grapple with the loss of one of their own and then have to turn around and adequately represent the one defendant who is charged with committing this crime. Richard Wanke lacks the money to hire high-priced defense attorneys and so the Public Defender is charged to defend him in this case. Public defender, Nick Zimmerman, has a tough job and lacks the type of money and resources from outset of the State’s Attorney. The State’s case against Richard appears to be weak, but only his trial will show us how well our legal system really works.

Charles Worboys is a Rockford resident.

Note: the remarks and contents, as posted above, are the only accurate version of this article.

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/12/05/judge-rejects-mistrial-request-cop-who-shot-walter-scott/94992510/


https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/privatization-criminal-justice/private-prisons


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


By Jeff Kolkey Staff writer

Posted Jun. 24, 2016 at 12:14 PM
Updated Jun 24, 2016 at 5:37 PM

ROCKFORD — Digital scanners tuned to Rockford police channels will fall silent Aug. 1.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea is ordering all digital radio communications to be transmitted over only encrypted channels starting in August, preventing members of the public and news organizations from listening to police radio traffic. O’Shea said he is concerned about officer safety and individuals’ privacy rights and worries that open communication tips off criminals to police movements.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department may follow suit next year.”I’m not trying to hide anything,” O’Shea said today. “It’s not about cutting off the media or the public.”

O’Shea said technology had made it easier for criminals to glean information from police radio traffic that can thwart law enforcement, give suspects advanced notice of imminent law enforcement activity and compromise investigations.

The change to encrypted channels involves reprogramming police radios at virtually no cost, O’Shea said.Plans are for the department to continue keeping a police blotter, Facebook page and Twitter feed to disseminate information to the public.

O’Shea said the department plans to establish a dedicated news media hotline and create a 911 call log that journalists and the public can use to monitor criminal and police activity.It has not been determined how often the log will be updated and published. And O’Shea said it will be scrubbed of calls, such as child sex crimes and “certain domestics,” the police department determines are inappropriate to publish.

“With what we are putting in place, I feel very comfortable it won’t decrease our transparency,” O’Shea said.Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association, said the shift to encrypted police communications is becoming more common in the state and in jurisdictions across the country. Police encryption raises the chance that the police department itself becomes the sole source of news and information about crime, he said.

“It’s going to make it very difficult to have immediate knowledge of what’s going on,” Craven said. “I’m not sure if this was designed to keep nosy reporters from knowing what’s going on, or if that’s an aftereffect.”

Source: Rockford to scramble all police radio communication – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL

Sunshine Week

Posted: March 16, 2016 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

Open government is good government March 13-19, 2016
Join ASNE and the Reporters Committee in the annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community. Find all the free resources you need to get started

Source: http://www.sunshineweek.org/


By Michelle ShermanOf GateHouse Media Illinois

Posted Feb. 29, 2016 at 5:24 PM CANTON — The Illinois budget crisis continues to hit home as Canton officials recently learned the state owes $674,000 for various services at Illinois River Correctional Center.

Finance Committee Chairman Jim Nelson said Monday he learned last week the state is that far in arrears to the city for three different services — water and sewer services to Illinois River, bulk sewer bills and two quarters of payments on an annual intergovernmental agreement for maintenance on shared roadways.

He was unsure how long it has been since the city received a payment, but asked that a discussion item be added to the City Council’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.“That’s a good portion of our bond payment” for water and sewer, he said. “It’s a very big number.”

LouAnn Armstrong, an accountant with Clifton Larson Allen who serves as comptroller and budget director for the city, says the Illinois Department of Corrections last received a bill on Feb. 23, but was unsure how far behind it is on payments.Because of the state budget impasse, vouchers requesting payment of bills cannot be released by the IDOC to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s office, said Rich Carter, Munger’s press secretary.

“We physically make the payment, but we can’t do that without a voucher,” and vouchers cannot be sent without a state budget, Carter said.

Source: Illinois owes $674,000 for services at Canton correctional center – News – Journal Star – Peoria, IL


BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK –  EAST ST. LOUIS

Inmates know them as “Orange Crush.” They are an elite, mobile Illinois Department of Corrections tactical unit, which civil rights lawyers say regularly humiliated and terrorized more than a thousand Illinois inmates on various occasions using tactics such as forcing them to march naked in single-file, tight formations, causing men’s genitals to press against the buttocks of men in front of them.

The special squad calls the exercise “nuts-to-butts,” according to a civil rights class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in East St. Louis, and state prison officials aren’t commenting on it.

Members of the tactical unit begin the tactic by running onto a prison tier when female guards are sometimes also present, “whooping,” banging on metal tables and shouting to prisoners: “Get butt-naked.”

The guards do this, according to the lawsuit, while dressed in orange fatigues, wearing helmets, carrying clubs and chanting “Punish the inmate. Punish the inmate.”

Hundreds of prisoners at a time were marched in this way in April of 2014 at four Southern Illinois prisons while being threatened by laughing guards who shouted they would be taken immediately to solitary confinement if they allowed any daylight between themselves and the man in front of them, the plaintiffs’ lawyers allege. Prisoners were eventually led to an exercise area and made to stand for hours with their faces pressed against a wall while their hands were cuffed behind them in a “stress” position. During this time, other members of the guard unit searched the prisoners’ cells for contraband.

“This is above and beyond what I’ve seen ever in the 35 years I’ve been doing this kind of work,” said civil rights attorney Alan Mills of the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center, one of two law firms pressing the lawsuit. “This is part of some official policy. Higher-ups in IDOC will have to explain what in the world they were thinking when they gave these people this kind of direction and leeway.”

Alan Mills, attorney for inmates Mills said the practice continued on at least a few occasions after the lawsuit was filed in 2015.

Source: Lawsuit: ‘Orange Crush’ guard unit terrorized, humiliated Southern Illinois inmates | Belleville News-Democrat