April 1, 2021
Signatures: 3,089Next Goal: 5,000
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Why this petition matters

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Romelle Graham was sentenced to 60 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of first degree murder, despite there being no physical evidence connecting him to the crime. Romelle Graham is a father of two who lost everything from this wrongful conviction. He has been forced to build and maintain a relationship with his two daughters while behind bars for the past 12.5 years. He’s tormented daily by the fact he’s in this situation for a crime he took no part in. His conviction was solely based on inconsistent/contradicted testimony of two rival gang members, Hughes and Reed, who in exchange received favorable deals from the State. Their statements was taken by Detective Domenic Cappelluti and Detective Charles Schletz of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, both detectives have a history of misconduct, which will be highlighted later in the petition.

The Crime:

On August 25, 2008, Mr. Graham and four other accomplices, Hughes, Alston, Wise, and Reed broke into a home demanding money from a safe and ultimately shot and killed one of its occupants, Bernard Phillips, according to court documents.

The Case:

Phillips fiancé, Palmer, and two of her children were present during the home invasion. When first interviewed, Palmer told two different officers from the North Chicago Police Department 3-4 people broke into her home. The case was then handed over to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. As detectives canvassed the crime scene, they recovered Hughes’ phone. On the phone was a missed call from “Lil-One,” a known nickname of Mr. Graham. Detectives were aware of the name and used a missed call to plant a seed of Graham’s involvement. After this, detectives spoke to the victim’s fiancé and she mentioned 5 intruders as opposed to the 3-4 she previously told officers.

During their first recorded interrogation, Detective Schletz references a previous conversation between him and Hughes. Schletz asked Hughes “Do you remember the guy we talked about earlier, ‘Romelle?”’ However, the State did not provide a previous recording in discovery between Detective Schletz and Hughes where they discussed “Romelle.” Although Detective Schletz references a previous conversation, the interrogation commenced as it was their first encounter.

Hughes and Reed, two individuals involved in the crime, gave inconsistent testimony of what happened the night of the home invasion turned murder, the series of events that took place, as well as the roles each person played in the crime. From trial to trial Hughes and Reed’s testimony was inconsistent and even contradictory to one another. Hughes and Reed both received a 6-30 year sentence to be served at 50% for home invasion instead of 20-60 year sentence served at 100% for first degree murder in exchange for their testimony that named Graham the leader of the crime. They took their plea deal before Graham’s trial and received their lighter sentences after their testimony incriminating Graham. The State wanted to hold an innocent man accountable for a crime he did not commit – no physical evidence placed Graham at the scene of the crime, it only took inconsistent testimony from two rival gang members and a detective with a history of taking false confessions to sentence him to 60 years in prison.

After Graham’s trial, Alston, another individual involved in the crime, went to trial. Alston’s lawyer presented a handwritten note from Hughes. In the letter Hughes admits that he plans to lie on the stand. Alston was acquitted of all charges. Although Hughes admitted to planning to lie under oath, the note surfaced after Graham’s trial and was not used to further prove that the testimony used to convict Graham was from an uncreditable source.

Detective’s Credibility:

Hughes & Reed’s statements was taken by Detectives Domenic Cappelluti and Charles Schletz of the Waukegan Police Department, who were members of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Detectives Cappelluti and Schletz were involved in three different wrongly convicted murder cases of Jason Strong, Jerry Hobbs, and Calvon Walter. Additionally, 3 federal lawsuits alleged Detective Cappelluti of civil rights violations. He has also faced multiple excessive force allegations and was suspended for lighting a firecracker in a home while police were executing a search warrant. All of the listed accusations have been settled and paid for by the city and insurers. All of the Chicago Tribune articles discussing Cappelluti's misconduct including involvement in false confessions, excessive force, and suspension are listed below.

Link to Cappelluti & Schletz involvement in wrongful conviction of Jason Strong

Link to Waukegan police Department Misconduct Including Cappelluti's involvement in excessive force suits and suspension

Link to Cappelluti's involvement in taking false confessions of two different murder cases

Post – Conviction Petition:

Judge Christopher Stride who presided over all 3 trials denied Graham’s petition in 2014. His reasoning: “Hughes and Reed told different versions of events from one trial to the next.”

  • My question to you is: If they both told different versions of what took place the night of the murder, how can one decipher which one is true? If they are not trustworthy and reliable, how is their testimony the reason Graham was convicted of first degree murder.

-- Graham’s latest appeal: 08 CF 3716

Evidence not used at Graham’s trial:

  • The victim’s fiancé, Palmer, testified that there was a scuffle between the victim and the intruders before shots were fired. There was an unknown blood sample found on the victim that excluded everyone charged as being the contributor. Graham has tried relentlessly to have the unknown blood sample retested but the state refuses to comply.
  • A witness states that he saw 3 individuals fleeing the scene after shots were fired. His statement corroborates a consistency between Hughes and Reed’s statement to the police, everyone ran back to the car except Wise who allegedly fled the scene on foot. Alston’s, DNA was found in the alleged getaway car. From this information, one could infer that (1) Hughes (2) Reed (3) Alston were the 3 individuals that the witness allegedly saw fleeing the scene. 
  • Graham also obtained evidence that the prosecutor impeded an investigation by persuading a witness not to testify. The witness had exculpatory evidence in Graham’s favor.
  • Hughes and Reed have both recanted their statements, admitting to giving false testimony, and further proving Graham’s innocence.

Graham’s words:

                “Its so many wrongfully convicted men and women incarcerated in Illinois for crimes they didn’t commit or they were rail-roaded by the public defender’s office who are appointed by the State. They do the very least work when it comes to protecting our rights. When you don’t know the law it’s easy to get manipulated by the fancy words your lawyer put inside of their motions. Still in all they failed to state the facts of the case. I had several alibis that were strong and since they were family members the courts failed to consider them credible. The State also knew of the allegations of misconduct by the detectives involved in the case but failed to tender me this as impeachment evidence. Cappelluti got on the stand at my trial and lied about his participation in the investigation/interrogations on the stand in fear that his past misconduct of taking false confessions would have come out! But my lawyer failed to investigate these allegations. Or argue the fact that unknown blood was left on the victim that excluded everyone charged in the offense. If this newly discovered evidence was presented at my trial, I wouldn’t be here. Let me rephrase that! If the State would have fulfilled their obligation to protect my rights and uphold the LAW! I wouldn’t be here. How come officers who took oaths to protect the law can do something as wrong as coerce individuals into making false confessions so they can obtain a conviction and keep their jobs once the truth comes out! And judges still hold these officers credible! That’s why we’re all guilty until proven innocent!”

**Please sign and share this to spread awareness of Romelle Graham’s story. If you are interested in contacting him below is his contact information**



PO Box 1000

Menard Correctional Center

Menard, IL 62259-0100


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