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Randy Steidl

Exoneree Name

State: Illinois

Convicted: 1987

Exonerated: 2004

Race: Caucasian

DNA used in exoneration? No

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Perjury or false accusation

Police misconduct

Prosecutorial misconduct

Inadequate legal defense


Randy's Wrongful Conviction

Randy Steidl spent 17 years in Illinois prisons, including 12 on death row, before his exoneration in 2004. He was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads. But an Illinois State Police investigation in 2000 found that local police had severely botched their investigation, and that the case was riddled with political corruption that led all the way to the Illinois Governor’s office.

When questioned about the 1986 murders of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in rural Southern Illinois, Randy cooperated with the police and gave a corroborated alibi for the night of the murders. It was a shock when he and a friend were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death within 90 days.

Randy had poor legal representation, and witnesses fabricated testimony against him due to police misconduct. An investigation by the Illinois State Police proved that local law enforcement and prosecutors had framed Randy. In 2003, a federal judge overturned Randy’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The state reinvestigated the case, tested DNA evidence, and found no link to him. On May 28, 2004, Randy was released.

Randy's Work Today

Since his release, Randy has been active in the anti-death penalty movement, speaking to colleges, state legislatures, and communities of faith throughout the United States. Randy was formerly the Board Chair of Witness to Innocence.

Randy believes that “one innocent life lost by execution is not worth 10 guilty persons being executed.” He has also said that "as a society, we can choose to keep the death penalty on the books, and live with the risk that others, like me, will be wrongfully convicted. We can hope that they will be exonerated in time. But that is a lot of hope when the price is the execution of the innocent."


  • Written by Michale Callahan

  • Chronicles the case and story of Randy Steidl

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