Action leaves prosecutors, victims´ kin ?just hurting´
CHAMPAIGN - Porter Halcrombe is disappointed that the man who killed his wife and daughter received clemency from Gov. George Ryan.
But, ?I'm more disappointed that one person had this power to make the decision for this many families that were affected by this,? Halcrombe said. ?To me, that's too much power for one person.?
Halcrombe's wife, Mae Halcrombe, 44, and their daughter, Soynda Halcrombe, 23, were killed in their Champaign home in 1988 by Harry Gosier, a former University of Illinois football player and then Porter Halcrombe's son-in-law.
Gosier was one of 167 inmates on death row whose sentences were commuted by Ryan on Saturday.
Halcrombe testified at Gosier's clemency hearing before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board last fall. He said the hearings caused a lot of anguish for families and the board, and now he wonders if it was all for nothing.
?To me, he (Ryan) had his mind already made up,? he said.
Halcrombe said he has agreed with some of Ryan's actions regarding Illinois' death penalty, such as investigating the cases where a person was wrongfully convicted. But he disagrees with granting blanket clemency for all death row inmates.
?I know our case was totally different from some of the cases,? Halcrombe said. ?It's not like they are guessing whether (Gosier) did it or not. We know that he did it. I felt he (Ryan) should have dealt with them more on a one-on-one basis.?
Some others involved in capital cases in central Illinois agree.
?We believe, if a thorough case-by-case analysis was engaged in, there would be few if any commutations,? said Champaign County State's Attorney John Piland.
?There really isn't any question of the guilt of these individuals,? he said, referring to Gosier and Eric Daniels, the other death row inmate from Champaign County.
Kevin Nolan represented William Bradley Kirchner, who was convicted of killing Charles Brewer, 69; his wife, Doris Jean Brewer, 65; and their daughter, Bonnie Brewer, 37, in rural Douglas County in 1997.
?As far as this case, everything was done right,? said Nolan, who is now first assistant public defender in Champaign County. ?I think if there was more of an individual review of each case (by Ryan), it would have been better.?
Nolan said he has mixed feelings about clemency. He personally doesn't like the death penalty, but he sympathizes with the families of victims.
?I'm sure there will be a lot of upset people,? he said. ?I certainly understand their anguish over it. I feel for the families, especially this family, because the crimes were so horrible.?
?My family is upset,? said Halcrombe. ?It's just a hurting thing to me and a hurting thing to other families of victims.?
Ryan's commutation will affect several who committed crimes in central Illinois. They are:
- In Champaign County:
Gosier was sentenced to death after pleading guilty in 1988 to the murders of Mae Halcrombe, 44, and her daughter, Soynda Halcrombe, 23. Gosier shot the two women in their west Champaign home, and he also admitted raping Soynda and her sister, Gosier's estranged wife, Lesia. Lesia Gosier and Lesia's daughter, India, then 3 years old, witnessed most of the crimes.
Eric Daniels was convicted and sentenced to death in March 2001 by a Will County jury for the 1993 rape and murder of Michelle Davis, 21, a clerk at the now-demolished Charter House Inn on North Cunningham Avenue in Urbana.
The case was tried three times, first in Champaign County in 1994. The guilty verdicts and death sentence were later overturned on appeal. Daniels was retried in 1997 in Cook County, but that trial ended in a hung jury on the murder and rape charges, necessitating the third trial.
- In Douglas County:
It took a Macon County jury just 23 minutes to convict Kirchner, of Decatur, of the Aug. 8, 1997, murders of Charles Brewer, 69; his wife, Doris Jean Brewer, 65; and their daughter, Bonnie Brewer, 37. They were fatally stabbed at Mr. and Mrs. Brewer's home near Garrett in rural Douglas County.
The jury later took 90 minutes to impose the death penalty.
- In Vermilion County:
On Valentine's Day 1980, Charles Silagy stabbed his girlfriend Cheryl Jo Block and her roommate Ann Budde Waters to death in Danville.
He was convicted of the murders after a jury trial. He then dismissed his attorneys and, representing himself during sentencing, asked the jury to sentence him to die, which it did. Appeals have focused on his competency to represent himself during sentencing.
Silagy was one of the longest residents of Illinois' death row.
- In Coles County:
In 1983, Carol Specht, 44, president of the Coles County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was stabbed to death in her apartment by Patrick Wright. Mrs. Specht's daughter, Constance, 22, had her throat slashed by Wright but survived.
Wright was convicted of murder after a jury trial, and a judge sentenced him to death.
Before the killing, Wright had been in and out of mental and penal institutions for about 30 years. He claimed a ?shoe fetish? made him insane. The jury rejected that, but appeals focused on his mental state at the time of the murder.