Two Chicago attorneys have volunteered to represent convicted murderer Jack McCullough in his attempts to have his conviction overturned. They'll appear at a hearing Friday morning to ask Judge William Brady to release McCullough from prison immediately "based on actual innocence."
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabriel Fuentes and former U.S. Attorney intern Shaun M. Van Horn are partners in the Chicago law firm of Jenner and Block, which has an extensive record of pro bono defense cases.
DeKalb Circuit Court Judge William Brady had appointed conflict attorney Bob Nolan to handle McCullough's legal needs. His services will no longer be required.
McCullough, who was convicted in September 2012 of killing seven-year-old Maria Ridulph in December 1957, is hoping to have his conviction overturned and be released from his life sentence in the Pontiac Correctional Center.
Fuentes and Van Horn are asking the judge to release McCullough on his own recognizance, if he is not immediately released on the basis of innocence.
In another request filed Wednesday, the attorneys want Judge Brady to dismiss an emergency motion by Maria Ridulph's brother: Charles Ridulph is requesting a special prosecutor to take the case from the DeKalb County State's Attorney.
McCullough had filed a handwritten motion for relief based on actual innocence, which was supported by DeKalb County Public Defender Tom McCulloch, who defended McCullough in the original bench trial.
Current DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack was ordered to review and report on all available evidence in the case and came to the conclusion, published last Friday, that he "had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted. No such evidence could be discovered."
That report was accepted Tuesday morning by Judge Brady, who explained to McCullough that he would have to go through a three-step process to pursue relief. Brady said he would not have the power to overturn the conviction, but the process could result in a new trial in the case.
Former DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell was in charge of the prosecution at the original trial before visiting Judge James Hallock.
Brady scheduled the next hearing for April 15.
WNIJ's Victor Yehling, Jenna Dooley, and Susan Stephens contributed to this report.