There have been some important changes since we started this blog, and while justice still eludes Ron, some of these new developments may bring Ron closer to the day he walks out of prison a free man:
DNA AND BALLISTICS TESTING:
On June 30, 2017, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Karahalios granted a request by Ronald Kliner’s defense attorneys for testing on evidence that could help exonerate him.
The court ordered DNA testing on hairs found on the victim, as well as DNA, ballistics and fingerprint testing done on shell casings and an unfired cartridge found at the scene. The hope was that, based on an earlier 2003 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test results on hairs found on the victim that excluded Ronald Kliner, these further tests could positively indicate or even help fully reveal the identify of a person who could have been the actual killer, as only nuclear (or STR) DNA can be used in the FBI CODIS DNA database.
On January 22, 2018, the Illinois State Police laboratory issued its results from the DNA testing. According to the report, the laboratory was unable to find any usable nuclear DNA on the shells and cartridge. The only four hairs that were found to have sufficient DNA for testing were determined by the ISP to have a “human DNA type profile” from which “Dana Rinaldi cannot be excluded.” It goes without saying is that Ronald Kliner can be excluded from those profiles. While there was again no evidence that indicated Ronald Kliner was present at the scene of the crime, the lack of usable nuclear DNA in this test meant it was still not possible to determine who else could have been present and who may actually have murdered Dana Rinaldi.
Since his conviction, Ronald Kliner had steadfastly maintained his innocence, fighting through prosecution roadblocks and unfavorable court rulings to get the initial mtDNA test in 2003, and again fighting for another 13 years to get the nuclear DNA testing. Given that 30 years has passed from the date of the murder to now, one can only wonder if there would have been more recoverable DNA to analyze had the tests been done sooner.
Since then, Ronald’s lawyers filed a motion in the Cook County Circuit Court in Rolling Meadows requesting that the Illinois State Police lab turn over the full documentation of the tests to examine how they came to their conclusions, and what further testing options are possible.
Ron is also pursuing a Dodds evidentiary hearing on the test results, which along with earlier tests, contradict the claims of two prosecution witnesses – John F. Apel and Joseph Rinaldi. Apel, who testified that Ron boasted of the crime to him, claimed that Ron said that he grabbed the victim by her hair. Not only did the autopsy report refute any such hair pulling, but the fact that none of Ron’s DNA showed up on or around the victim would cast doubt on Apel’s claims. Rinaldi, who took a plea deal admitting he hired people to kill his wife, also claimed that Ron tried to grab Dana Rinaldi’s purse, the type of close physical contact not supported by the DNA test results.
The DNA report can be viewed here: Illinois State Police DNA Laboratory Report.
MOTION FOR A BRADY VIOLATION BACK IN COURT
When the prosecution does not turn over evidence that can materially affect a case – such as information that casts doubt on the credibilty of a star prosecution witness – that is known as a Brady violation.
As it states at the Cornell University Law School website:
The Brady Rule, named after Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), requires prosecutors to disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession to the defense. A “Brady material” or evidence the prosecutor is required to disclose under this rule includes any evidence favorable to the accused–evidence that goes towards negating a defendant’s guilt, that would reduce a defendant’s potential sentence, or evidence going to the credibility of a witness.
In the case of Ron’s trial, there was damaging evidence against a key witness – ex-police officer John F. Apel – that could well have not only hurt Apel’s credibility in the eyes of the jury, but may have led to the prosecution choosing not to testify at all. The withheld evidence includes: an internal investigation over Apel’s silence in the years between the time when Apel claimed Ron “confessed” to him, and when he decided to inform the authorities, and a lawsuit against Apel by the estate of an elderly woman he had befriended and whose bank account he subsequently drained upon her death.
Despite repeated requests to the prosecution by Ron’s trial lawyer for any relevant information on Apel – none was ever provided. Had they followed the law and done so, Ron may never have been convicted, sentenced to death, and condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
While the motion filed by Ron for a Brady hearing was initially rejected by the Cook County Circuit Court, that decision was reversed by an Illinois Appellate court. Ron’s hope is that this will result in his sentence being vacated and getting a new trial.
CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY
On February 2, 2018, Ronald filed a 1,000 page innocence petition to Mark Rotert, director of the Conviction Integrity Unit. As stated on its web site, the Conviction Integrity Unit’s “mission is to determine whether new evidence shows that an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted for a crime, and to recommend steps to rectify such situations.” It is Ron’s hope that based on the information he has provided, the Conviction Integrity Unit will do just that.