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Lake County State’s Attorney Nerheim names members of Case Review Panel

Mike Nerheim

Mike Nerheim

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Updated: February 2, 2013 2:20AM

On his first day in office after being sworn in, new Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim announced the members he is appointing to an independent Case Review Panel in Lake County who will be authorized to review criminal cases where there is a question about the wrongful conviction of the innocent, identify the causes of wrongful convictions, and recommend protocols for investigating and prosecuting criminal cases going forward.

“I have invited a talented group of legal professionals to tackle this important issue who bring a balance of experience including from outside of Lake County and who have been vetted for independence,” Nerheim said Monday. “This voluntary Case Review Panel will provide a fresh, unbiased perspective at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

The panel is comprised of individuals with a diverse background of experience, including from outside of Lake County, who will look at cases in question and bring a fresh perspective, he said, adding the panel is being formed in response to recent exonerations and the public’s declining trust in the justice system in Lake County.

Members of the all-volunteer Case Review Panel will be sworn in as special assistant state’s attorneys and will take an oath of office with the protections and liabilities that come along with it, including the duty of confidentiality. The panel will be independent of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office and its staff, and will report its recommendations directly to Nerheim.

He said the Case Review Panel will meet quarterly or more often as needed, especially initially as work gets underway. The primary goal of the panel is to develop potential policies and procedures to reduce the possibility of conviction of the innocent in Lake County. The model is based on a similar program in place in North Carolina.

“It is my hope that based on the future success of our work in Lake County, that this will be the impetus to institute similar solutions across Illinois,” said Nerheim.

Members of the panel include:

Robert Baiser of Highland Park, a former Lake County assistant state’s attorney who has been in private practice since 1978.

Retired DuPage County Judge Peter Dockery.

Nicholas Iavarone, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney in private practice since 2007.

Ennedy Rivera of Waukegan, a lawyer with the Waukegan firm of Wysocki and Smith.

Retired Lake County Circuit Court Judge Emilio Santi.

Frank Zera, a former assistant Illinois attorney general.

The Rev. John Caples, Jr., pastor of Jesus Name Apostolic Church, Waukegan.

Paula Carbillido, a community activist and president of the North Chicago Exchange Club.

Art Peterson of Spring Grove, retired Lake County News-Sun staff writer, who covered county government and courts for decades.

Elroy Reed, president of Soaring Eagle Publishing Co., and founder of The People’s Voice monthly newspaper.

In addition to forming the panel, Nerheim announced the appointment of a Citizens Panel of diverse community leaders in Lake County to bring a non-legal, community perspective to the wrongful conviction issue.

This panel will serve as a liaison between the community and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office about issues in the community related to crime, public safety and restoring trust in the criminal justice system. The Citizens Panel will meet with Nerheim on a monthly basis or more frequently, as needed.

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