Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nicholas Sheley Murder Case - IL Governor Abolishes The Death Penalty

Nicholas T. Sheley at Pontiac Correctional Center 2011
 It has been quite some time since I have written about the capital murder case of Nicholas Sheley who is accused of killing Ronald Randall, 65, in Galesburg, IL on  June 28, 2008. I sure didn't plan to get so far behind, but Mr. Katfish has been quite ill the past several months and of course that is my main priority. I recently found out I can tap into the hospital's WiFi connection on my netbook, so here we go......

Although there have been a number of  hearings since my last report, not much happened during these hearings to actually progress this case towards trial, rather things have been pushed back...several times.  The "wheels of justice turn slowly" is not just a cliche, it's a reality. When I last wrote about this case the court was planning for the trial to start in early 2011. Now we are looking at the Summer or possibly Fall of 2011 before this trial gets under way.

When I started writing this post back on February 5 (after attending a hearing on the 4th), I had planned to try and work backwards to catch up on this case but it's just not going to happen. I'll just pick up from the most recent development that effects this case, and it's a big development ! On March 9, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men. Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on Illinois' death row. They will now serve life in prison with no hope of parole. I'll address the effect of this legislation on Nicholas Sheley's case in this entry.

For readers not familiar with this case, Nicholas Sheley is accused of killing eight people ( including Randall ) in a week long killing spree during the last week of June 2008.  Five of the other seven people were killed in Whiteside County, IL, a 20 year old woman, her 2 year old son and three men ages 25, 29 and 93. (Whiteside County is where Sheley is from.) An  Arkansas couple, both age 54,visiting the St. Louis, MO area were Sheley's last 2 (alleged) victims and were killed in Festus, MO. You can learn more about the week of Sheley's alleged killing spree and the weeks leading up to to it by clicking here to see an early post titled " Sheley's Trail of Terror".

With the death penalty abolished in IL, the maximum penalty Nicholas Sheley (if convicted for the death of Ronald Randall ) can face is a life sentence without the possibility of parole (LWOP).  From what I understand, the trial should start sooner, be shorter and less expensive (if convicted, no penalty phase to decide the death penalty).

Nicholas Sheley's defense most likely will consist of one lawyer instead of the three or four he has now. Jeremy Karlin is lead attorney on Sheley's defense team and would remain so. I'm not sure if the Office of the IL Attorney General would still assist the prosecution of this case, but wouldn't be surprised if they did because of the gravity of the alleged crimes. 

Because this is a capital case, Knox County has not been responsible for the costs of this case, funding has come from the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, that burden will now shift to the county and the unspent money in the Capital Litigation Fund will be reallocated to pay for services for victim’s families and law enforcement training.

In the mean time this case is status quo and will proceed as a death penalty case until the new legislation takes effect on July 1, 2011,  unless the state files a motion to withdraw the death penalty before then.
As of the February 4 hearing the next scheduled hearing in this case is a case management hearing on March 29, 2011. We should learn more then.

A final note, Missouri has not abolished the death penalty, so Nicholas Sheley may still face death if he is convicted for the deaths of Tom and Jill Estes.....whenever his case makes it's way there.

Chicago Tribune

Sphere: Related Content