Memorial Gathering for Ronald Kliner


On October 29th, there will be a gathering to honor the life of Ronald S. Kliner.

Ronald Kliner was put through 28 years of hell. He was falsely charged for the murder of Dana Rinaldi, wrongfully convicted based on false testimony and sentenced to death – spending nearly seven years on death row before his sentence was commuted to natural life – with no prospect of every seeing the outside of a prison.

He always insisted he was innocent and fought with all his strength to win his freedom.

While we still don’t know exactly what transpired in his cell on the early morning of October 4th, we do know what killed him – had Ronald Kliner not been wrongly charged and convicted, he would still be alive today.

Here’s the statement from the memorial meeting:

“Ronald Kliner was incarcerated since 1992 for a crime he didn’t commit. He fought to prove his innocence for 29 years. On October 4, 2021, Ron passed away under unknown and suspicious circumstances at Hill
Correctional Center in Galesburg, Il. On October 29th, Judge Greenblatt planned on ruling on Ron’s motion for a new trial. Join us in Rolling Meadows in support of Ronald Kliner. No person should lose their life in prison fighting for their innocence…and the fight continues”

“Ron’s legacy will continue to live on… his loved ones will continue to fight to clear his name. We will stand with the families of wrongfully convicted individuals to help prevent this from happening to another innocent person.”

The gathering will be at:
Rolling Meadows Courthouse
2121 Euclid Ave, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Friday, October 29, 2021 – 1:30 pm

Please contact Natalia Bogucka with any inquiries at:
rightingwrongfulconvictionspod@gmail.com

Ronald Kliner is No Longer With Us

On October 4th, 2021, Ronald Kliner died while still in custody at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois. He was only a few weeks away from an October 29th court hearing, where a favorable ruling from Judge Joel Greenblatt could have ended Ron’s 29+ years long nightmare of being wrongfully convicted. 

Please feel free to post condolence messages in the comments.  

There will be a gathering in honor of Ron at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse, at 2121 Euclid Ave in Rolling Meadows, on October 29th at 1:30pm, the time his hearing was to have been. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral costs and an independent autopsy.  

Below is the statement from that page from Natalia Bogucka:

“It completely breaks my heart even write this. Ronald Kliner fought for 29 years to prove his innocence and always maintained it. He spent 7 years on death row for a crime he did not commit and his sentence was commuted to life in 2003 by Gov. George Ryan. He was a warrior for the underdog. He spoke out against the justice system that stole the best years of his life. He was optimistic about being exonerated and everyone around him believed he was extremely close. He had a passion for life, law and helping others. His plan upon exoneration was to assist others who were wrongfully convicted. His next hearing was scheduled for October 29, 2021. The judge on his case was finally going to rule on his Motion For A New Trial, it was four years in the making. It was not an easy feat, but no hurdle was too mighty for Ron.”

“On October 4, 2021, Ron died while still in custody at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. We still do not have any answers as to what happened or what caused this tragedy but his family and friends want to know. We need to get Ron back home from Galesburg and have an independent autopsy done. We also want to respect Ron’s wishes and lay him to rest next to his maternal grandparents.”

“We loved Ron with all of our hearts. We will continue to fight to clear his name.”

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-bring-ronald-kliner-home

The Wrongful Conviction of Ronald Kliner

“Ronald Kliner” Makes a Showing at the April 24th ARCA Menard Series race at Talledega Races

Click here for post

Urgent: Ronald Kliner has contracted COVID-19

The very thing that Ronald Kliner and his attorney’s have feared has come about. This should not come as a shock, given the spread of the coronavirus throughout Illinois prisons. The fact that Ronald Kliner now has COVID-19 is especially maddening, not only because Ronald has a real chance to get his conviction thrown out when his motion is heard, but because Ronald and his attorney’s have been consistently raising the alarm with the courts and with Springfield concerning the risks Ronald Kliner was facing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Please share this information on social media and if you haven’t, please go here to email a letter urging Illinois Governor Pritzker to grant Ronald Kliner clemency.

Please send letters to Illinois Governor and Lt. Governor supporting clemency for Ronald Kliner – click here

On November 6th – Judge Denies Ronald Kliner’s Motion for Immediate Release: Click here.

New Videos on website: Click here.


The Wrongful Conviction of Ronald Kliner

Ronald Kliner has spent over 26 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. 26 years of being kept away from friends and family. 26 years of having his daily existence monitored and horizons constrained by concrete walls and razor wire.

A lot can be said about the circumstances that led to Ronald’s incarceration. Eyewitnesses who were unable to identify him in court. Other witnesses whose testimony was less informed by truth than by a palpable bias against Ron. Evidence never brought into court that not only proves Ronald’s absence from crime scene, but points to the identity of another person who may well be the killer.

All this and a lot more can be said about the process that led to Ronald’s conviction and incarceration, but it all boils down to this basic point – an innocent man has spent almost half his life behind bars.

For years he and his lawyers have fought the battle in the courts, filing appeals and motions challenging the conviction, demanding DNA testing, and appealing for his release based on actual innocence. For now, while some recent developments finally do hold some promise (see “Updates“), as time goes on, avenues for legal recourse can wind up as just another dead end.

After more than two decades of fighting, the window of opportunity for Ronald to win his freedom may still be open – but it is closing. Evidence does not does not do well with age. Memories don’t get sharper. Leads become more difficult to follow.

But not impossible.

There is still hope the Ronald will be reunited with his loved ones. That he will finally see the other side of the gray prison walls. In many ways it depends on what people who read these words do.

Public opinion alone doesn’t free the falsely accused, but it influences how the authorities act. Motions may get a favorable ruling from the court.  Review boards may more thoroughly examine a case and do the right thing. And pending exoneration, outside pressure can mitigate conditions in prison, such as the lack of treatment for medical problems.

Beyond weighing in with a letter to the governor or a putting a signature on a petition, digging up new evidence that sheds more light on Ronald’s case is crucial. People have walked out of prison because information was brought out damaging the credibility of witnesses testifying falsely. Because information surfaced proving an individual could not possibly have been at the crime scene. Because new information helped prove that another individual was the guilty party.

Ronald may not have unlimited funds and an army of lawyers and investigators. Safe to say if he had, he’d never have been convicted. But he does have a team of dedicated lawyers, friends and family who’ve stuck by him, and most important of all, the truth. With your help, his long nightmare may come to an end, and an innocent man finally get justice.

Judge Denies Ronald Kliner’s Motion for Immediate Release

On November 6th, Judge Joel Greenblatt denied Ron Kliner’s motion for immediate release, pending the outcome of his motion to vacate his conviction.  The request for release was made due to the spread of Coronavirus in Illinois’ prisons – and the threat it poses to at-risk prisoners such as Ronald Kliner. 

Ronald Kliner has spent more than 25 years behind bars, having been wrongfully convicted for the 1988 murder of Dana Rinaldi in Palatine, and has been waiting for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to respond to his Motion to Vacate his sentence.

Ronald Kliner’s attorney, Tara Thompson, acknowledged that asking for her client’s release was an extraordinary request – though as evidenced by a pandemic that has take almost a quarter of a million lives – these are far from ordinary times.

As Ronald Kliner’s attorney stated in court, “Mr. Kliner should not die in prison for something he didn’t do.”

Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Carol Rogala argued that Ronald has the option to petition the governor- which Ronald has already done with no success.

Not only did the judge agree with the state in denying Ron’s release, but he granted their request for a two month delay in giving – not a response – but an advisement as to when they can respond to the motion to vacate the conviction.

The judge, who is completely new to this case, also indicated that based on the amount of information involved, it will take him some time to go through it once the state is done with its response.

What this means is that no only is justice for Ron again delayed, but he must wait with the threat of contracting Covid-19 hanging over his head.

The next court date was set for January 8th and will be at 1:30om, in courtroom 110.

Unless the court restores in person hearings it will be on Zoom.

While the previous court date had a last minute room change, Judge Greenblatt stated that all future hearings will be in the same Courtroom and at the same time.

Information for next court date:

Time/Date: 1:30pm – Friday January 8, 2021
Room: 110
Meeting ID: 968 2376 9037
Password: 836410 

Sincerely

Friends of Ronald Kliner

For more information 

Click here to read the Motion for Immediate Release

Click here to read the Second Amended Motion for Release from Judgement

Ronald’s legal team can be reached at:

Loevy & Loevy
(312) 243-5900

Jon Loevy
https://loevy.com/contact/e-mail/?aid=2049

Tara Thompson
https://loevy.com/contact/e-mail/?aid=2060
tara@exonerationproject.org
(312) 789-4955

More information available at this site – https://freeronaldkliner.wordpress.com/

This site also has some videos of past news coverage and interviews with Ronald Kliner on this page

Lawyers to File Amended Brady Motion on February 21st

On Friday, February 21, lawyers for Ronald Kliner will submit an amended motion that could result in the overturn of his wrongful conviction for the 1988 Palatine murder of Dana Rinaldi, raising the possibility that Ron will get his first taste of freedom after 27 years of incarceration.

The amended motion provides additional information and evidence that further demonstrate Brady violations by the prosecution, who at the time of Ron’s trial, withheld information that would have raised serious doubts in jurors’ minds concerning the character and truthfulness of their key witness, former Chicago Police Department officer John F. Apel. This information includes the fact that at the time of the trial, Apel was under investigation by CPD Internal Affairs and was being sued for embezzling an elderly woman’s estate. Had this information been available to the defense to present in court, it’s very likely that Ron would never have been convicted.

The importance of Apel to the prosecution was directly related to the weakness of the their case. There was no physical evidence tying Ron to the crime. In fact, later DNA tests consistently excluded Ron from the crime scene. A witness who saw one of the suspects failed to identify Ron in court. The closest to a first-hand account tying Ron to the crime came from the the victim’s husband, the very same man who had his wife killed for insurance money, took a plea deal and turned state’s evidence to escape the death penalty, and who’s testimony was so unreliable that even the trial judge remarked that “exceptionally arduous to ascertain when defendant was truthful and when he was not.”

The remaining tool in the prosecution’s case was testimony from three individuals with grudges against Ron, each of whom claimed that Ron blurted out his guilt to them. Apel was one of those three witnesses.

With a case that boiled down to he-said/she said testimony from individuals with questionable motives, the fact that Apel held the status of Chicago police officer would likely have given his words more credibility to the jurors. In this light, the question is begged – did the prosecution’s withholding of critical information make the difference between between conviction and acquittal. This Friday, Ron’s lawyers intend to argue that point.

Court Information:

When:
Friday, February 21, 2020
9:30 AM

Where:
Judge Marc W. Martin
Third Municipal District Courthouse
2121 Euclid Avenue
Room 110*
Rolling Meadows , IL 60008

*Rooms sometimes change so also check the assigned rooms at the courthouse

For more information please contact Ron’s attorney:

Tara Thompson
Exoneration Project
Loevy & Loevy
(312) 243-5900

Updated Brady Motion to Include New Evidence to be Submitted to Judge on May 24th

An updated motion to vacate Ron Kliner’s wrongful conviction will be put before Judge Cataldo in Rolling Meadows on Friday, May 24th.

The original motion was filed two years ago, requesting that Ron’s conviction be overturned because of Brady violations – that the prosecution withheld evidence that would have severely compromised one of the key witnesses in his trial.

On April 26th, Judge Cataldo was to rule on Ron’s request that the state be compelled to respond to the Brady motion, but instead, with no objections from the state, a new court date was set so that Ron’s lawyers can submit an updated version of that motion. The updated motion will include outstanding and new evidence that was not previously presented in court.

If Judge Cataldo approves the amended motion, it will considerably strengthen the legal argument that had all of this evidence been brought before a jury, Ron may not have been convicted.

Please let others know about this, and if you can, come to court and show your support for Ron and for justice.

When:

Friday, May 24th, 2019
10:30 AM

Where:

Judge Joseph M. Cataldo
Third Municipal District Courthouse
2121 Euclid Avenue
Room 109*
Rolling Meadows , IL 60008

*Rooms sometimes change so also check the assigned rooms at the courthouse

April 26th Court Hearing Could Bring Ronald Kliner Closer to a New Trial

A hearing in a Rolling Meadows courthouse on Friday, April 26th could potentially become a major turning point in the efforts of Ron Kliner to reverse his wrongful conviction and win his freedom.

It’s been nearly two years since Ron moved to have his conviction overturned due to clear Brady violations by the trial prosecutors, who withheld evidence that may well have lead jurors to question the veracity of a key prosecution witness, former CPD Officer John F. Apel. Since the jury never saw this evidence, they were unaware that, among other things, Apel was being investigated by Internal Affairs, and was being sued for embezzling an elderly woman’s estate. Had this information been made available by the prosecution, and it was presented in court, it’s very possible that Ron would never have been convicted.

In the two years since Ron requested a Brady hearing, there has been little to no response from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office on this.

On April 26th, Judge Cataldo will be hearing a recently filed pro-se motion from Ron. The motion asks for a default judgment to be issued against the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office if they again fail to address Ron’s request for a Brady hearing.

If granted, the remedies can range from setting a date on which Cook County State’s Attorney’s office must respond; to issuing a subpoena to Officer Apel requiring he testify before a hearing concerning the Brady violations; up to vacating Ron’s conviction and ordering a new trial.

Clearly there is a lot at stake with this hearing.

Please let others know about this, and if you can, come to court and show your support for Ron and for justice.

When:

Friday, April 26th, 2019
9:00 AM

Where:

Judge Joseph M. Cataldo
Third Municipal District Courthouse
2121 Euclid Avenue
Room 109*
Rolling Meadows , IL 60008

*Rooms sometimes change so also check the assigned rooms at the courthouse

 

What’s New with Ronald and his Case

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.