PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/39/99
EXTRA 30/99 Death penalty / Legal concern 1 March 1999
USA (Illinois)Andrew KOKORALEIS, aged 35
Andrew Kokoraleis is scheduled to be executed at Tamms maximum security prison
in southern Illinois on 17 March 1999. He was sentenced to death in 1987 for
the rape, aggravated kidnapping and murder of Lorraine Borowski in Chicago
in 1982 when he was 19.
His lawyers have appealed against the death sentence on the basis of evidence
which they say shows that he was wrongly convicted of this murder and that
another man, Robin Gecht, killed Lorraine Borowski.
The principle evidence against Andrew Kokoraleis in this case was his own
confession and statements given to police by his brother, Tommy, and another
man, Edward Spreitzer. According to reports, the Kokoraleis brothers and
Spreitzer have between them been found guilty of six killings - of five women
and one man - carried out in 1981 and 1982. Edward Spreitzer is on death row,
Tommy Kokoraleis is serving life imprisonment, and Andrew Kokoraleis is also
serving life imprisonment for another of the murders. Robin Gecht, the alleged
ringleader of the group, was reportedly sentenced to 120 years in prison for
Andrew Kokoraleis has maintained for many years that he only confessed to the
Borowski murder because he was beaten by police. On the same day as he confessed
to that murder, he reportedly confessed to another killing, but detectives
realised this was false because of the incorrect details he gave about the
crime. A lie detector test Kokoraleis took in 1991 was considered by the examiner
to confirm that he was telling the truth when he said that police had beaten
him before he confessed to the Borowski murder.
The initial confessions of Edward Spreitzer and Tommy Kokoraleis indicated
that it was Robin Gecht, not Andrew Kokoraleis, who killed Lorraine Borowski.
Andrew Kokoraleis’s current lawyers claim that the two men changed their
statements because they were afraid of Robin Gecht. This version of events
appears to be supported in a book, Deadly Thrills, written by a Chicago police
officer and published in 1995.
The recent history of the death penalty in Illinois has shown that wrongful
convictions are an ever-present danger in capital justice. On 5 February 1999
Anthony Porter was released from death row after evidence of his innocence
was uncovered. On 19 February Steven Smith was released from death row after
the state Supreme Court ruled that the only witness against him was unreliable.
Nine other men have been found to have been wrongfully convicted in Illinois
since 1987. Several, like Anthony Porter, had come close to execution (see
update to EXTRA 66/98, AMR 51/26/99, 10 February).
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, irrespective
of issues of guilt or innocence. Every death sentence is an affront to human
dignity; every execution, with its message that killing is an appropriate
response to killing, compounds the violence in society. For many people, the
ever-present risk of wrongful conviction is reason enough to abandon the death
penalty. Since 1973 in the USA, 77 people have been exonerated after being
sent to death row. Many had come close to execution before being released.