MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — A group of activists is asking: Does Innocence Matter? The question emblazoned their posters as protesters held a peaceful rally, calling attention to what they believe are wrongful convictions in McLean County from 1987 to 2001.
The group organized by supporters of Jamie Snow gathered outside the McLean County Law and Justice Center Thursday afternoon. Many support and believe in the innocence of five men convicted of murder in the county from 1987-2001 under the tenure of former state’s attorney, Charles Reynard.
Three of the men have been cleared of their crimes, but two them still maintain their innocence and fight to prove it from behind bars.
The group of about two dozen protesters called out Reynard and his office at the time for playing a role in the “wrongful convictions.” Jessica Snow, daughter of Jamie Snow, said she knows her dad did not kill anyone.
“I don’t think they want admit that this courthouse is dirty like that, but they need to admit the wrongs and give my dad all the evidence,” Snow said.
Family and supporters of Snow as well as McNeil claimed that during their 2001 and 1999 trials respectively, the county hid evidence that would have proven their innocence.
In 2001, Snow was found guilty for the 1991 murder of a gas station attendant in a robbery gone wrong. Snow’s daughter said key informants that testified in court were “faulty” eyewitnessess.
“People telling me to my face that they lied to get time off jail when this is my dad’s life. It’s devastating,” Snow said.
WMBD spoke with McNeil from behind bars this past May. In June of 1998, McNeil was a single father raising his three year old daughter. After putting her to bed, he woke up the next morning to find the girl unconscious.
Police arrested McNeil and he was subsequently found guilty in 1999. In the time since, McNeil has claimed no wrongdoing. He and his supporters are hopeful new DNA evidence will go before an evidentiary hearing.
“It’s not his DNA, it never has been. He’s been fighting for his innocence since the start of it,” said high school friend of McNeil, Alan Williams.
Williams attended a May 12 hearing for McNeil where a team of innocence lawyers argued why new evidence should move on to an evidentiary hearing. A judge is still looking the matter over.
“All I’m waiting for now is the judge to make his decision. He said he would make his decision in 60 days, it’s been 140 days,” Williams said.
The group pleaded with current state’s attorney Erika Reynolds to right the wrong of past prosecutors.
“I have hope she’s going to be different because all we have here is hope,” Snow said.
Alan Beaman, Don Whalen and Eric Drew were also convicted of murder during that time in McLean County. All three have since been exonerated.
State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds told WMBD the office could not comment on the pending litigation of McNeil and Snow.
Reynolds said the exonerations of Beaman, Whalen and Drew were before she started with the McLean County State’s Attorney office.