‘CSI Oakwood’ forensic students tackle real-life cases
By Wayne Baker, Staff Writer • May 17, 2020
“This semester in her Forensic Science II class, in addition to learning new content, students spent a lot of time studying real-life cases, many that are still actively being investigated […]
Another case that the class has spent a great deal of time on was the conviction of an Illinois man, Jamie Snow, for a 1991 murder. Snow is serving a life sentence without parole at Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. He is currently being represented by the Exoneration Project out of the University of Chicago.
“I have been communicating with Jamie since November of 2019 after hearing his story on the Truth & Justice Podcast,” Wargacki said. “When I told him I was covering his case in class, he offered to answer student questions through an audio recording.”
She met with her students recently on Zoom to listen to the audio interview of Snow answering questions from the class.”
In 1995, convicted rapist Bill Moffit was serving his lengthy sentence for a most heinous crime. While chatting with his cellmate, he learned of a precious rumor that might help him out. Some guys he knew from the world might have been involved in a robbery, and he recalled bunking with one before. He felt it was just his luck. So Bill Moffit called the cops, asked about the reward, and said that Jamie confessed to the robbery gone bad, and he just needed peace of mind. He had it so bad that he came three times, to testify in court. This tenth episode of Snow Files brings new meaning to the walk of shame.
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Jamie Snow Among Inmates Seeking Clemency During Virus
“For two decades, Jamie Snow has fought his McLean County murder conviction, but his battle with an infectious disease that has killed 12 of his fellow inmates may pose the biggest threat to his life.
Snow is serving a life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center in the death of Bill Little, a clerk who was fatally shot behind the counter of a Bloomington gas station on Easter Sunday 1991. The Exoneration Project is representing Snow in his effort.
Lawyers for the 55-year-old defendant have asked Gov. JB Pritzker to consider clemency for Snow, based upon the risk he and other inmates face from the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prison system.
According to the Department of Corrections, more than 150 staff and 160 inmates have tested positive for the virus. Twelve inmates, all housed at Stateville, have died since March.
In an April email to WGLT, Snow described life in the Joliet facility as “some sort of B-rated horror movie.” The arrival of the Illinois National Guard to assist with health care was a major improvement, he said.”
In 1999, while the grand jury was hearing testimony for Jamie Snow’s indictment, a cold case detective with a vendetta started his day bright and early. He had important business to take care of with his paid informant. Detective Rick Barkes woke up Randy Howard at 5:30 AM and to check and see if Jamie told him a joke or a murder confession 8 years prior. Randy had received $500 from a lead homicide detective around the same time he supposedly heard this joke. He said he agreed to whatever this detective asked him just to make him leave. Randy Howard played the system for the next two years, telling Jamie’s jury, “if I would have known we would have ended up here today, I would have said things a lot differently […] I never, never expected to be here.” This ninth episode of Snow Files presents the value in a dollar for an informant who thinks they’ll never make it to trial.
Ep 8: Its My Party and I’ll Lie If I Want To: Steven Scheel and Molly (Pfister) Esche / Eades
In the spring of 1991, a group of friends allegedly gathered for a house party in a neighborhood one mile west of the murder scene. Steve Scheel arrived at the home of his niece, Molly (Pfister) Esche / Eads, and within one hour, an old childhood acquaintance casually confessed to murdering a kid, while they were just catching up on life for five to ten minutes. The friend was supposedly Jamie Snow. But Jamie doesn’t even know Scheel, and he wasn’t at that party. Scheel was arrested for sex crimes later that summer, and told this story to authorities several times between his arrest, trial, and parole. And Molly even vouched for him at Jamie’s trial. This eighth episode of Snow Files shows just how easy it was for someone so desperate, to actually play catch-up on Jamie’s life.
Ep 7: Drive by Confession: Ed Palumbo and Shannon Schmidt-Wallace
In 1991, a BPD task force made several arrests for a string of armed robberies. Ed Palumbo, an acquaintance of Jamie’s, confessed a robbery while in jail. One month later, he told police that he knew Jamie was involved in crimes, and that he even confessed to a murder through his car window as they passed each other on the street. He later came back and said his girlfriend, Shannon Schmidt-Wallace, heard the whole conversation herself. Jamie was investigated, and it was decided that the story was fabricated. But this witness went to prison again for may years, and a week before his released date, he was forced to retell that old story at Jamie’s trial, but this time with an incredible amount of new details. His girlfriend showed up too. This seventh episode of Snow Files reveals just how much pressure it takes to get someone in prison to flip, and the creativity police and prosecutors will use to get results that can be concealed at trial.
EP 6: Snitch Parade with Special Guest Paul Ciolino
Famed private investigator, author and president of The International Association of Forensic Criminologists (IAFC), Paul Ciolino, who was instrumental in overturning the death penalty in Illinois, joins the show to discuss his expertise with wrongful convictions in Illinois. Paul provides insight into how informants are motivated to give false witness testimony, and how powers of authority allow, encourage, and actually protect informants. Paul explains the uphill battle a defendant faces while trying to reverse the damage after trial, and offers insight into how defense teams and citizens can combat these violations. This sixth episode of Snow Files explains how effective snitches were in securing Jamie’s wrongful conviction, and offers hope for Jamie’s case by highlighting the power of activism and societal awareness.
In 1991, there was a string of armed robberies in McLean county and a task force formed. Jamie was implicated in a robbery he did not commit, arrested, and made to participate in a lineup for an unrelated murder. He was cleared. Charges were dropped. Nine years later, he found himself on trial, as the defendant for that murder. A detective who interviewed him about the robbery took the stand, and replaced the word “robbery,” with “murder,” for his retelling of their conversation. This fifth episode Snow Files exposes exactly where the corruption began, and shares Jamie’s deep regrets over his failed self-defense.
“Years of sparsely attended court proceedings go largely unnoticed until a judge’s final order allowing an inmate to be freed. Media coverage in most cases begins and ends with the smiles and hugs exchanged between a defendant and relatives outside the prison door.
But the story-telling potential of the internet through podcasts and websites maintained by inmates’ supporters now allows the public to closely follow exoneration cases. Audiences for podcasts have exploded from 19 million listeners in 2013 to more than 60 million last year
[…] Tammy Alexander oversees a blog dedicated to developments in Jamie Snow’s efforts to be cleared in the 1991 murder of Bill Little in Bloomington. From her home in Tennessee, Alexander posts information and recently started work on a podcast on Snow’s case […] Snow does most of the talking on The Snow Files podcast through tape recorded conversations between himself and Alexander; Snow is serving his second decade of a life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center.”
Jamie’s trial lasted nine days and the jury deliberated for two days. They heard forty-three states witnesses and fifteen defense witnesses. They heard Jamie’s attorneys hassle witnesses. But what they didn’t hear was even more important. They didn’t hear critical questions or objections to key witness testimony, recorded police radio calls or interviews, or any evidence or investigation that directly discredited witnesses. They also didn’t hear Jamie’s constant letters to the judge, begging McClean county for relief from his broken-down legal team. Jamie’s pair of lawyers were a stroke patient and a mentally ill alcoholic, who berated him throughout the trial, and tried to abandon him right before sentencing. This fourth episode of Snow Files shows no mercy to Jamie, by even his own court appointed attorneys.