Cleve Heidelberg, far left, addresses Judge Albert Perham Jr. as his attorneys, from left, Andy Hale and Don Jackson listen while their client tells the judge he is competent to serve as his own attorney in one motion. Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady, right, has repeatedly argued there is insufficient evidence to support the case be reviewed by an independent special prosecutor.
BY CLARE HOWARD
There were moments of eloquence and moments of compassion in the courtroom of Peoria County Circuit Judge Albert Purham Jr. Wednesday during a hearing on the conviction 46 years ago of Cleve Heidelberg for the 1970 murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Espinoza.
There were also periods of frustration and conflict in the courtroom.
Members of both the Heidelberg and Espinoza families were present.
In the end, Judge Purham said there were sufficient issues of concern with the original conviction that he moved forward with appointment of an independent special prosecutor from the Illinois Attorney General’s office, Steve Nate, to review the case.
A status hearing was set for Dec. 1.
In moving forward, Purham denied a request by Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady that the appointment be held while the decision was appealed.
The Heidelberg case was divided into two segments. In one motion, seeking post conviction relief and his immediate release, Heidelberg held fast to his insistence on serving as his own attorney. A hearing was set for Nov. 16 on that issue.
In the appointment of a special prosecutor, Heidelberg will continue to be represented by attorneys Andy Hale and Don Jackson.
Heidelberg assured the judge that while he has been damaged by his nearly half century of incarceration for a crime he insists he did not commit, he has no serious mental diseases or mental impairment that would prevent him from serving as his own counsel.
He objected to allowing the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office to appointment a special prosecutor, saying “they put a friend in as special prosecutor, and he takes months of preparation . . . delay, delay, delay. I go back to the penitentiary and get irons on me and am incarcerated one more day, one more month, one more year, two years . . . .”
Heidelberg said he’s been in prison for 46 years, four months and nine days for a crime he did not commit.
Larry Evans, assistant state’s attorney, objected saying “We are all here today because he killed a police officer” and over the course of the past 46 years, every case review sought by Heidelberg has been turned down by numerous courts.
At one point, Hale said, “I don’t know what the state’s attorney is afraid of. This is a search for the truth.”
The decision to review this case again is based on what Hale and Jackson contend is new evidence showing FBI fingerprints were never submitted to the court, eye witnesses were coached, Heidelberg’s constitutional rights were violated and key witnesses were not allowed to testify. A confession to the murder by another man was never submitted to the court.
Hale said, “Every hour and every day of delay is significant to him (Heidelberg). Let’s get the truth out.”
Evans countered that justice has been served; a man who murdered a police officer 46 years ago in cold blood has been incarcerated for life.
In deciding to move forward with an independent special prosecutor from the Illinois Attorney General’s office, Purham said there must be a remedy when there is doubt justice has been served.
“I want a neutral body to tell me if Cleve Heidelberg’s right to a fair trial was violated,” Purham said. “I believe the Espinoza family deserves justice too.”
Recognizing Heidelberg’s age of 73 and his diagnosis of congestive heart failure, the judge added “not posthumous justice.”
The father of one of the most famous Americans of the 19th century lies in an unmarked grave in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, IL. A group of admirers of his son, Robert Green Ingersoll, is raising money to place a monument on his burial place.
A marker for the grave of Rev. John Ingersoll, a Presbyterian minister who lived and worked in Peoria, would cost about $1,000. The admirers of Robert Ingersoll resolved to raise funds for a monument when they met recently in Peoria for dinner and to re-dedicate the refurbished statue of Ingersoll.
The Springdale Historic Preservation Foundation has established a tax deductible fund for the monument. Checks can be sent to SHPF Rev. Ingersoll Monument Fund, PO Box 5511, Peoria, IL 61601. Or you can use the Springdale website for credit card donations: http://weblink.donorperfect.com/springdale
For more information: Ken Hofbauer 309-635-3590; email@example.com
Or another credit card site is the website https://ffrf.org/get-involved/donate/ . Where it asks “Is this donation for a special project?” click the drop-down arrow and select the fifth line “John Ingersoll headstone.” This is also a tax deductible donation.
Questions or comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance held a press event at the office of the Peoria Chapter of the NAACP to discuss the favorable court ruling against Dynegy who owns and operates the Edwards Coal Plant by Bartonville, IL. A joint lawsuit had been filed by several environmental groups about three years ago in response to what they believed were violations of the Clean Air Act with opacity pollution– or particulates being put into the air.
This is a link to the full press event:
Cleve Heidelberg, left, and his attorneys Andy Hale, center, and Don Jackson in Peoria County Circuit Court Sept. 22.
By Clare Howard
In a highly unusual and risky move, Cleve Heidelberg tried to dismiss his attorneys and represent himself Thursday in a hearing before Peoria County Circuit Judge Albert Purham Jr.
Heidelberg, 73, has been in prison for the past 46 years, having been found guilty in 1970 for the shooting death of Peoria County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Espinoza.
On Thursday, Purham set another hearing for Oct. 5, telling Heidelberg he has two weeks to discuss his decision with his attorneys, Andrew Hale and Don Jackson. Purham warned Heidelberg that if his decision to represent himself remains unchanged, he should be prepared to start arguments immediately at that time.
“I have been ready these past 46 years,” Heidelberg told the judge.
The judge called a recess Thursday to allow Hale and Jackson to discuss Heidelberg’s request with him.
Hale told the judge he loves Heidelberg too much to “let this train crash. The stakes are too high.”
After numerous appeals were rejected over the past 46 years, Purham’s decision in July to appoint a special prosecutor to the case was the closest Heidelberg has ever gotten to having his original conviction reexamined and possibly vacated. In court Thursday, Heidelberg said he is not prepared to endure more years in prison while a special prosecutor works on the case. He seemed prepared Thursday to waive appointment of a special prosecutor and represent himself seeking immediate release.
Hale asked the judge if Heidelberg’s sister, Mae Winston, 77, could talk briefly with her brother. She was in the courtroom. She is in poor health, has not been able to travel and has not seen her brother for more than a decade.
The judge cleared the courtroom and allowed 15 minutes for that meeting.
Afterward, Hale said it was an emotional meeting with a lot of tears.
“This has been a very difficult 45 years for Mr. Heidelberg. He’s 73 and in poor health. He’s frustrated, anxious and impatient,” Hale said. “I understand where he’s coming from.”
Also in court Thursday were Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady, assistant state’s attorney Larry Evans, attorney Steve Nate from the Illinois Attorney General’s office and Matt Jones, special prosecutor for the appellate court.
The hearing Thursday was dealing with two issues, the judge’s motion to appoint a special prosecutor from the attorney general’s office and Heidelberg’s motion for immediate release, contending sufficient evidence has already been submitted to the court to prove his innocence and prove the original investigation in 1970 was seriously flawed.
The Peoria County state’s attorney filed an appeal to stay enforcement of a special prosecutor, contending the judge had exceeded his authority. State’s Attorney Jerry Brady had rejected a petition earlier this year from Hale and Jackson asking that the state’s attorney appoint a special prosecutor.
Hale and Jackson both expressed frustration with the way the Peoria County state’s attorney has handled the case.
“This is more confusing than it should be,” Jackson said. All we want is to “get a fair set of eyes to review this case and so far we’ve just had a flow of paperwork.”
Hale told the judge the state’s attorney has made a conscious choice to delay the case.
“In my opinion, this is gamesmanship,” Hale said, noting Heidelberg’s age and diagnosis of congestive heart failure.
Community Word was unable to immediately reach Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady for comment.
For more information contact:
Washington Historical Society
101 & 105 Zinser Place
Washington, IL 61571
(just north of the square)
309-635-3016 or 309-444-4793
- Friday Night Oct. 14, encampment on Washington Square 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. camp set up and story telling by the Fort Creve Coeur 1776 Venture Crew
- Saturday Oct. 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Washington Square also presented by Fort Creve Coeur 1776 Venture Crew; activities include: monkey bridge, rope making, candle making, spoon making, leather work, hide tanning, blacksmithing and pictures taken.
- Monday, Oct. 24 “An Evening with Tim Pletkovich” 7 p.m. Washington Presbyterian Church. Come hear a presentation by Tim Pletkovich, author of “Sons of the Civil War in WWII.”
- Saturdays Washington Historical Society has opened the Dement-Zinser and Dr.’s Museum for public tours. Saturday’s 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Private tours are also available by calling 309-444-4793. Take a step back into Washington’s history!
Greater Peoria League of Women Voters Co-sponsors Film,
Selma, the Bridge to the Ballot
League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria and NAACP Peoria will host a special screening of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) documentary Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot, the true story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.
The film will be screened at 1pm on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Lincoln Branch Library 1312 W. Lincoln Ave. Peoria 61605.
“You will see in the movie how the teachers and students 50 years ago made a difference,” said Helen King, NAACP co-chair of “Selma” film screening.” We should remember the sacrifices made to be able to vote. Everyone needs to vote. We can change things.”
Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, the documentary by the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project tells an important story not touched on by the Hollywood feature – the true story of the forgotten heroes of the fight for voting rights, the courageous students and teachers in Selma, Alabama, who stood up against injustice despite facing intimidation, violence and arrest.
By organizing and marching bravely, these activists achieved one of the most significant victories of the civil rights era – passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The film is a powerful reminder that each person has the ability to bring about social change.
Despite this victory, only about six in 10 eligible citizens exercised their right to vote in the 2012 presidential election. That means approximately 90 million voters did not cast ballots. Voter turnout dropped to a 72-year low in 2014.
A key to increasing voter turnout is encouraging young people to vote. Research shows that when young people vote, they are more likely to vote later in life – helping to ensure a new generation of active and engaged voters.