Tuesday, September 10, 2013

iFramed: Epilogue

I've posted a series of articles here about Vince Testa, the most recent was called iFramed: Case Closed.Testa's story may be a parable of how justice gets dispensed out of the office of the Lake County State's Attorney.

Mismanagement in that office made it the target of some recent nationwide negative publicity. Michael Nerheim became Lake County's new State's Attorney in 2012. A former prosecutor in the same office, Nerheim was elected on  promises that he would reform that same office. One promise was to create an independent Case Review Panel that would review past cases and could be instrumental in overriding convictions.

Vince Testa, who maintains he was falsely convicted in Lake County of resisting arrest, hoped to obtain exoneration from Nerheim's new Case Review Panel. Testa worked with the system, and his conviction was recommended to the Case Review Panel. But after that, Testa would discover that what had been advertised to be an independent and transparent process turned out to be instead guarded and secretive.

If you or I or anyone needed information about the Case Review Panel, we would first turn to the Lake County State's Attorney's website. But the only substantive information to be found there is a short blurb on a page named, Review and Advisory Board.
Case Review Board and Citizens Advisory Board were sworn in Feburary [sic] 21st, 2013 by Chief Judge Fred Foreman. The Case Review Board were sworn in as special Assitant [sic] State's Attorneys, and will be independent of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. The Citizens Advisory Board is comprised of diverse community leaders in Lake County to bring a community perspective. All recommendations will be made to State's Attorney Mike Nerheim.
While this explanation may not seem very forthcoming, the Lake County State's Attorney office was even less forthcoming to Testa's inquiries. In his pursuit of justice Testa literally had to make things up as he went along. As things turned out, Testa was not permitted to contact the Case Review Panel. And when his appeal was eventually rejected by Nerheim, Testa was given nothing in the way of an explanation or a record of the deliberative process or even any indication that there had been a deliberative process.

Testa's case leaves more questions unanswered than answered.
Just what is the Case Review Panel?

Who is on the Case Review Panel?

When and where do they meet?

Have they ever met?

Are there minutes or records of meetings?

What is the process of getting a case in front of the Case Review Panel?

Has anyone ever been exonerated?

Can or has Michael Nerheim overridden a Case Review Panel recommendation?

If so, is there a public record of the act?

In what way is the Case Review Panel independent of Michael Nerheim's office?
To put it bluntly, Testa's journey through the Lake County justice system was the sort of bureaucratic nightmare that Kafka satirized. Michael Nerheim was elected on a promise that his Case Review Panel would introduce independence and restore transparency to his office. I haven't seen evidence of either.

No comments: