SPRINGFIELD - The nephew of a man who died in prison after being convicted of stabbing a Mount Vernon woman said he is praying his uncle's name is cleared in connection with the case.
S.T. Jamison, a Minneapolis special education teacher, told members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board that it was highly unlikely Grover Thompson could have physically committed the 1981 crime against Ida White because of a leg injury that left him hobbled.
"He actually dragged his leg as he walked," Jamison said Wednesday.
The testimony came as part of a hearing aimed at exonerating Thompson of the crime. Jamison joined representatives of the Illinois Downstate Innocence Project and two police detectives in telling the board that convicted serial killer Timothy Krajcir has confessed to stabbing White.
Krajcir is serving life in prison for two Southern Illinois murders and admitted to additional murders in Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Thompson, who was handed a 40-year sentence in the case, maintained his innocence until his death in prison in 1996.
Retired Carbondale police detective Lt. Paul Echols said Krajcir volunteered information about the attack on the 73-year-old woman and gave an accurate description of the room where the attack took place.
By contrast, evidence linking Thompson to the crime was based on potentially faulty eyewitness accounts and a lack of evidence pointing to Thompson as the perpetrator.
"There should have been blood on the subject's clothing," said Echols, who now teaches at Shawnee Community College and Southern Illinois University.
Thompson was passing through Mount Vernon in September 1981 and was sleeping under a table in a post office lobby across the street from White's apartment when police apprehended him.
The bid to clear Thompson was launched after Nicole LaForte, an SIU law student, read a news story about Echols' book on Krajcir's crimes.
LaForte said clearing Thompson's name won't bring him back, but it will correct an injustice and bring peace to his family.
"It's been a very painful process for our family," Jamison said.
The review board will make a confidential recommendation on Thompson's case to Gov. Pat Quinn within the next two months. Although there is no timetable for Quinn to act on the recommendation, advocates hope he moves swiftly.
"Sometimes the system gets things wrong," said SIU law professor Christopher Behan.
"This was the kind of case that epitomizes the kind of work we do," added Larry Golden, director of the innocence project, which is based at University of Illinois-Springfield.
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