The former state's attorney, whose office successfully prosecuted Gary Dotson for a rape the alleged victim now says never occurred, urged Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson (R) to commute Dotson's 25- to 50-year prison sentence.
"I would not criticize you for granting a full pardon in this case," if evidence supported it, former Cook County prosecutor Bernard Carey said in testimony before Thompson and the state Prisoner Review Board. He said the "bizarre" case has "severely damaged the criminal justice system.
"The longer this controversy continues, the greater the damage," Carey said.
The statement brought a wave of applause from the standing-room-only crowd in the 600-seat auditorium of the State of Illinois Center. Carey's assistants made the case against Dotson in 1979 on charges of kidnaping and raping Cathleen Crowell Webb two years earlier, when she was 16, in a West Chicago suburb.
Dotson, 28, is free on $100,000 bond pending his appeal of a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Richard Samuels, who last month rejected Webb's recantation and sent Dotson back to prison. Webb, 23, continued the testimony she began Thursday, saying she could not recall in detail how she fabricated the charge and inflicted wounds on her abdomen to support her story.
Under a board member's aggressive questioning about her motivation for coming forward, Webb declared, "I have not received a cent from anyone." She said that her lawyer is handling inquiries about rights to her story and that she knows nothing about them.
Today's testimony revealed details of Webb's relations with Bernard and Carol Smith, her legal guardians from 1975-80. Carol Smith said she was surprised and hurt to read in People magazine recently that Webb had never felt close to them.
"Until three weeks ago, we were 'Mom' and 'Dad,' " Smith said. "She was the daughter I never had . . . . She was a little doll."
Thompson pressed her to explain why Webb had called their relationship "strained but civil."
"I can't fight anything Cathy says," Smith replied. "I don't want to make any more of a liar out of her than she's made of herself."
Dotson's lawyer, Warren Lupel, demanded earlier that board members "put your money where your mouth is" and pardon Dotson: "He's entitled . . . . He has the right to a pardon based upon innocence. I urge you to give it to him!"
As Thompson and the board sat seemingly stunned, the auditorium erupted in applause until Thompson gaveled spectators to silence.
Lupel criticized the governor for never having granted a full pardon to any petitioner during his eight years in office. "If you aren't going to do it in this case, when will you do it?" he asked. Otherwise, he said, the clemency statute should be repealed because it "holds out false hope."
Thompson, attending his first clemency board hearing, has controlled it, leading the questioning as intense media coverage continued through a second day of testimony. The hearing is to resume Saturday.
Robert Cummins, who administered separate polygraph tests to Dotson and Webb, told the board today that he believes that both told the truth when they denied having had sex together.
Questioned by Thompson, Cummins conceded that polygraph results can be inconclusive. "A person can show truthful in an examination if they believe they are telling the truth." They also could be lying and fool him, he said.
Dr. Andrew Labrador, a suburban physician who treated Webb after police brought her, semihysterical, to his hospital July 15, 1977, said he found no sperm during a microscopic examination of vaginal fluids taken from her.
"I cannot say for sure" whether Webb had had sexual intercourse that night, Labrador said.
Other witnesses today included Pamela O. Julian and Karen Cavenaugh, who said they were with Dotson much of the night of the alleged rape. They described an idle afternoon of drinking beer and listening to music, followed by a home-cooked dinner and a night of party-hopping. They said Dotson slept in the car much of the time and was taken home about midnight, long after the alleged assault was said to have occurred.
The Prisoner Review Board consists of eight men and two women, all of whom have been police officers, corrections officials or, in one case, a lawyer. They must make a written recommendation to Thompson, who can clear Dotson's record, pardon him, commute his sentence or send him back to prison. Dotson also is seeking appellate review of Samuels' decision last month and of the original trial.