Man who died in prison denied clemency request - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Man who died in prison denied clemency request

(KFVS) -

The clemency denial letter is just one line long, but the weight of its words crushed S.T. Jamison. 

It reads:

"Dear Mr. Jamison: Please be advised that the above named petition for executive clemency filed has been denied by Governor Rauner on 11/25/2015."

"I read the letter, and I re-read it and I put it down," said Jamison. "I couldn't think about it anymore. I really thought people would see the light that it wouldn't be the same decision handed down. It's very, very disappointing."

The "above-named" petitioner was Jamison's uncle, Grover Thompson. Thompson was arrested, tried and convicted for a crime that serial Killer Timothy Krajcir later confessed to. 

The crime was an attempted murder that occurred on September 7, 1981 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. 

Court documents say that 72-year-old Ida White was about to take a shower near the end of the day. When she pulled back the shower curtain she saw a man with a knife. 

White screamed and the man stabbed her repeatedly and then jumped out of the basement window and escaped.  

The facts of the crime are undisputed. The trickier portion of the case was revealed years later. The question: who was the man in who attacked White?

"There were a number of errors that day," said retired Carbondale police detective and author of "In Cold Pursuit," Paul Echols. "Identification was wrong, the clothing didn't match the physical description didn't match the physique, the athletic ability didn't match, but you know who it did match was Timothy Krajcir – not Grover Thompson."

That night, Mt. Vernon police arrested Grover Thompson, a transient black man they found asleep inside the Post Office just across the street from White's apartment. 

"If that case were to go to court today, I don't think an arrest would be made," said Echols. "Second of all, it would never be prosecuted because there was no physical evidence."

In January 1982, an attorney argued that the assailant was not Grover Thompson.

Court documents state Ida White never identified Thompson as her attacker. The attorney claimed the other eyewitness, Barney J. Bates, wasn't given much choice. Thompson was the only suspect police had him view. There was no photo array of suspects and no line up.

There was a small amount of blood on a hunting knife found in Thompson's pocket, but court documents state crime lab technicians could not even extract enough to test what type it was.

It was prosecuted. An all-white jury found Thompson guilty of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

In 2007, serial killer Timothy Krajcir confessed to Paul Echols, a lieutenant at the time, and Cape Girardeau police detective Jimmy Smith that he had stabbed Ida White. He told the investigators that he thought someone had been arrested for the crime, but didn't think they would ever have been convicted.

Krajcir confessed to the stabbing and described the victim, the apartment and his escape in detail. 

"He actually drew a floor plan of the apartment and would only have been able to do that had he been there," said Jamison. 

"The worst case scenario, we thought, was that an innocent man is sitting in prison," said Echols. 

It was an even worse case scenario. Thompson was 14 years into his 40-year sentence in 1996 when he passed away; still insisting he was innocent until his dying day. 
    
"A lot of things failed in this process," said Echols. "This is the only thing left for his family – to grant Grover Thompson clemency. But we've got another road block."

Ken Tupy, the spokesman for the Illinois Prison Review Board, said there were no objections filed in the request for clemency Jamison filed on his uncle's behalf. Still, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner denied the pardon. 

"Especially after Krajcir confessed – I just thought this denial was an incredible slap in the face," said Jamison. 

In 2012, investigators, Southern Illinois University law students, the Illinois Innocence Project and Thompson's family presented a case for Thompson's exoneration, but in the governor's latest round of clemency action Rauner rejected that request.

Some say this latest action comes as a shock.

"We wonder if anybody read it," said Paul Echold, a former Carbondale police detective. "Did they read any of the facts or details? We've had a change of administration now there's a new governor so I don't know the process, but all I know is there's a letter that says denied."

Jamison said his family has always believed Thompson was innocent, but a pardon would have gone a long way to restore his family's faith in the criminal justice system, especially for his three sons.

"I think they being young have a lot of hope," said Jamison. "But when they see that kind of thing, it makes them think, 'Wow. If I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time who knows what might happen to me?'"

That's why both Jamison and Echols are vowing to try again.

"This won't be the end of it, I can guarantee that," Echols said. "It's just that bad of a decision that there's no way we can sit idle and let that be the last word."

Heartland News reached out to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for comment on why he denied the pardon. Neither he nor his staff have returned our emails.

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