Bill Elward, right, attorney with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, argued Thursday that his office is ethically bound not to comment on the Cleve Heidelberg case. Also in court for a status hearing on the attorney general’s review of the case are, from left, Cleve Heidelberg, Andy Hale and Don Jackson.
BY CLARE HOWARD
Cleve Heidelberg was in court Thursday for a status hearing that was supposed to be about an independent review of his case by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Instead, attorney Bill Elward from the attorney general’s office, told Judge Albert Purham that his office cannot ethically comment on the case because of an appeal still pending with the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa.
Elward said if the appellate court overturns Purham’s recent ruling vacating Heidelberg’s conviction, Heidelberg’s attorneys would likely appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. If the appellate court upholds Purham’s decision, a new trial could be possible, he said.
“We are ethically bound and we can’t comment on this case one way or the other,” Elward said.
His position took both Purham and Heidelberg’s attorneys by surprise.
Andy Hale, one of Heidelberg’s attorneys, said he is disappointed and had hoped for a full, fair and independent review.
Hale said a special prosecutor from the attorney general’s office was appointed almost one year ago and he should “finish the mission.”
Elward repeated his conviction that his office is ethically bound not to issue a report and said continued involvement in the case “invites mischief.”
Purham gave Heidelberg’s attorneys 14 days to respond, Elward 14 days to assess their response and then set a hearing on the matter for 1 p.m. July 21.
Meanwhile, Heidelberg remains free on bond.
After the hearing he said he was not particularly disappointed and views this as part of the process.
He said freedom is indescribable after 47 years in prison, and “it feels like I’ve been in the wilderness, and I’m back in civilization.”