WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) – A man who spent more than a decade on death row for a crime he did not commit toured Eastern Kentucky this week, hoping his story leads to greater opposition to the death penalty.
Randy Steidl was convicted in 1987 of murdering a couple in Paris, Illinois.
Steidl had an alibi, but lost his case and was sentenced to die.
Thanks to an investigator risking his career to point out flaws in the case, Steidl was released after more than 17 years of wrongful imprisonment, including 12 on death row.
He is now one of more than 150 Americans exonerated from death row.
“We’re the fortunate ones,” Steidl said Wednesday during an interview with WYMT at a stop in Whitesburg. “We don’t know how many slipped through the cracks.”
Steidl blames corrupt police officers and a crooked prosecutor for his unfair trial.
“You have bad apples in every profession,” Steidl said. “I think we do have the greatest justice system in the world. The problem is the people who implement it.”
Steidl spoke to a small group of people Wednesday night in Whitesburg on one of several stops this week in the mountains. He was also in Prestonsburg and Pikeville.
Steidl hopes what happened to him convinces folks to oppose the death penalty.
He pointed to studies that suggest it’s cheaper for the government to impose a life sentence than a death sentence.
“I think if you really want to punish a vicious killer, put him in a cage for the rest of his life and make him think about the crimes he committed,” Steidl said. “When he dies, if he doesn’t repent to God, then he burns in hell. That’s justice.”
Some who listened to Steidl’s talk Wednesday signed a poster of “Eastern Kentuckians Against the Death Penalty.”
As of November 2016, there are 34 death row inmates in Kentucky.
The state has not executed anyone since 2008.