PRESTONSBURG — In 1987, Randy Steidl went to a place from which very few return — death row.
Steidl was convicted that year of taking part in a the murder of a newlywed couple in Paris, Ill. He was sentenced to death for the crime.
On Thursday, Steidl will be in Prestonsburg, a free man, to talk about his experience of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die.
Steidl spent 12 years on death row. In 1999, advocates working on his behalf were successful in obtaining a new sentencing hearing, at which time he was sentenced to life in prison. Five years later, he was finally cleared of the crime, based on new information about the case and old evidence being invalidated.
Now, Steidl is coming to Kentucky to speak about his experience. Sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Steidl will be speaking in Prestonsburg, Thursday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m., in the Gearheart Auditorium, at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. He will also be making appearance next week in Lexington, Highland Heights, Morehead, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Georgetown.
Steidl’s case illustrates problems which ultimately led Illinois to abolish the death penalty. Despite there being no physical evidence linking him to the crime and a corroborated alibi for the whereabouts at the time of the murder, Steidl was convicted based on conflicting testimony from two witnesses.
In an interview with CNN, Steidl described his experience as grueling.
“Torture — actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wanted to kill me for something I did not do,” is how he described his experience.
Steidl’s visit to the state comes as opponents of the death penalty have begun a push to abolish the practice in Kentucky. Last year, after two years of study, the American Bar Association released a 400-page report which called on the state to suspend use of the death penalty in order to address issues of fairness and accuracy in its implementation. Last month, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution calling for the death penalty to be abolished, arguing that it is unevenly applied to minorities and the poor.