Cathleen Crowell Webb, testifying about her recanted rape charges for a second straight day Friday, told Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson and the board considering executive clemency for Gary Dotson that it was difficult to “remember something from eight years ago that didn’t even happen.”
Then, in an impassioned appeal, Dotson’s attorney, Warren Lupel, urged Thompson and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to “put your money where your mouth is” and grant Dotson a parole based on innocence.
In addition to Webb and Lupel, the board heard from 11 witnesses, including childhood friends of Webb, Webb’s foster parents and a polygraph expert who testified that both Webb and Dotson seemed to be telling the truth during lie detector tests he administered after the recantation.
6 More Witnesses Due
Half a dozen witnesses remain to be heard when the proceedings resume today. Thompson, sitting personally for the first time with the board that hears executive clemency cases, has said that he would make his decision as soon as possible after the hearing is completed and the board makes its non-binding recommendation.
Thompson could take any one of several actions other than granting a parole based on innocence, which is something he has never done. He could commute Dotson’s sentence to the six years he has already served or he could deny clemency outright. In the latter case, Dotson, who was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison for raping Webb in suburban Chicago on July 9, 1977, would first be eligible for parole in three years.
Although Webb, 23, and Dotson, 28, who is free on bond, have been seated 10 feet apart in the front row of the State of Illinois Center auditorium, they have not spoken to each other during breaks in the proceedings. In fact, both testified Thursday that they have never spoken to each other.
The hearing again was televised live nationwide on the Cable News Network, as well as on the local CBS affiliate in Chicago.
Spectators Back Dotson
The several hundred spectators inside the auditorium cheered and applauded testimony favorable to Dotson’s case, while board members and the governor said that they were still bothered by some “inconsistencies” in the testimony of witnesses.
Lupel, arguing that “public opinion cannot be ignored,” said that he hoped the board and the governor would have the courage to parole Dotson based on “the substantial likelihood of his innocence.”
While commutation of the sentence to time served would be better than an outright denial of Dotson’s executive clemency petition, Lupel said, he urged the board not to “take the easy way out.”
But some of the review board members were openly skeptical of Webb’s testimony when the mother of two from Jaffrey, N. H., resumed it Friday. They pointed out that she could not remember important details of how she fabricated the rape story and why she selected Dotson’s photograph from the hundreds she viewed at the time.
Expert Offers Opinions
Among others testifying were:
--Robert Cummins, a polygraph expert, who said that in his opinion Webb was telling the truth--or what she believed to be the truth--when she denied ever having been raped by Dotson or anyone on the night in question. Cummins also said his expert opinion was that Dotson was telling the truth when he said he had never seen Webb or had sexual intercourse with her.
--Dr. Andrew Labrador, who examined Webb the night of the alleged rape, said her external vaginal injuries were consistent with having had intercourse a few hours before. But he added that he could not say unequivocally that Webb had had intercourse because he found no sperm cells in her vagina.
--Two female friends of Dotson’s testified, as they had at the trial, that he was with them around the time of the alleged rape.
--Bernard and Carol Smith, Webb’s foster parents, testified that between the night of the alleged rape and the trial two years later, they had told Webb that they would support her even if she decided not to testify against Dotson. They indicated they were convinced that their daughter had been raped.