2022 September 29 News Article – The Pantagraph – Dozens protest McLean County convictions
BLOOMINGTON — Around two dozen supporters gathered in front of the courthouse in downtown Bloomington on Thursday to protest what they maintain were wrongful convictions that led to the imprisonment of innocent men.
Organizer Tammy Alexander, of East Tennessee, said she’s a co-host of a podcast called “Snow Files.” It covers the case of Jamie Snow, who was convicted 2001 of the murder of 18-year-old gas station attendant William Little, shot and killed in a 1991 robbery in Bloomington.
The Bloomington man has maintained his innocence since his 1999 arrest, and is seeking exoneration. In February, Snow was authorized to review 7,704 pages of discovery documents from his trial, following a motion by his lawyers with the Illinois Exoneration Project.
She said that all speakers and others in attendance have been deeply impacted by the tragedy of wrongful convictions.
“Families have been ripped apart, children raised without fathers, mothers struggling to support their families alone, and men suffering in prison for decades for crimes that they did not commit,” she said.
Advocates also continue to push for exoneration for Barton McNeil, who is serving a 100-year prison sentence at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center on murder charges for the June 15, 1998, death of his 3-year-old daughter, Christina. He has long maintained his innocence, and prosecutors conceded earlier this year to an evidentiary hearing on two affidavits claiming McNeil’s ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, confessed to the murder of McNeil’s daughter.
In an interview with The Pantagraph, Alexander said she wrote to Snow long ago after reading an article about his case, stating she believe he didn’t get a fair trial. She said Snow wrote back, saying: “I’m innocent, and if you let me I’ll prove it to you.”
Andy Schiltz, of Bloomington, said he served as a juror in the case filed against Susan Claycomb Powell, who was acquitted of being Snow’s getaway driver. He told The Pantagraph that he’s convinced without a doubt that Snow is innocent.
He said the case gives him no confidence in the justice system, in that prosecutors have too much power. Alexander and Schlitz both called for a convictions review board to be established in every judicial district in the nation.
Also attending were two of Snow’s daughters, Nicole and Jessica Snow. Now 29, Nicole Snow said she’s been advocating for her father’s innocence since she was in first grade, and she was just under 7 years old when he was convicted.
“I often get told that I’m lucky that I was so young when my father was convicted,” she said. However, she said she was aware enough to know a tragedy had hit the area, and something horrible was happening to her family.
Snow said she’s grateful to her mom, who became a single mother when her father was convicted.
The pain of her dad being ripped away caused irreversible effects, she said, and created a rift between her brothers, who were experiencing unimaginable heartbreak.
“It was constant chaos and there was no reprieve in sight,” said Snow.
She said the strength of her mother, and her aunt, Claycomb-Powell, inspired her. Nicole Snow said while she always struggled with anxiety and depression, and with maintaining personal relationships and boundaries therein, she only turned out okay “through sheer willpower and the determination to prove other’s wrong.”
And it wasn’t because she was too young to understand what was happening to her family, she said.
She said she turned to reading as an outlet, and took her mind to different worlds.
“I remember being in grade school and hiding in the bathroom for hours reading,” she said. “I also remember disassociating on the school bus and imagining my dad stopping it and taking me home — the pipe dreams of a confused little girl.
“I still find myself daydreaming that scenario, but as an adult now.”
Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison