A federal judge ordered a new trial yesterday for a former Illinois death row inmate. The Chicago Tribune says the judge ruled that a Cook County prosecutor broke court rules to trick defense lawyers into not calling a witness who would have testified their client was innocent. Criticiing the prosecutor and a Chicago police detective, for intentional misconduct, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled in favor of Floyd Richardson, who was sentenced to death for the 1980 murder of a store clerk in a robbery.
Kennelly ruled that former prosecutor Henry Lazzaro engaged in “intentional deception … that successfully tricked [defense lawyers] into deciding not to call a key eyewitness who would have said that Richardson was not the man who robbed and murdered George Vrabel.” Richardson’s lawyer, Joshua Sacks of the Illinois State Appellate Defender’s Office, said, “In 30 years of practice, I’ve never had a lawyer flat-out lie to a judge like this.”
Richardson, 49, has been in prison for nearly 23 years. His death sentence was commuted last year to life in prison without parole when Gov. George Ryan emptied death row. Kennelly gave prosecutors 120 days to decide whether to retry Richardson or set him free.