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Carl Montgomery

Other 1989 Exonerations
In September 1983, Wayne Montgomery was charged with committing two residential burglaries on September 9, 1983, in Moultrie County and Macon County in Central Illinois.

After he was arrested, Wayne Montgomery, who had prior burglary convictions, implicated his 44-year-old half-brother, Carl Montgomery, as his accomplice. Police then charged Carl with two counts of burglary.

In March 1984, Carl went on trial for the Moultrie County case first. The trial was very much a family affair, with most of the witnesses for both the prosecution and defense coming from the Montgomery family.

The state’s primary witness was Wayne Montgomery, who testified that on September 9, 1983, he and Carl met at a family cabin in Beardstown, Illinois. They decided to commit a burglary in Arcola, Illinois. Wayne said they drove to Arcola, but abandoned that plan because there were too many people around.

Wayne said they then burglarized homes in Moultrie and Macon Counties and drove back to Carl’s home in Springfield, arriving around 8:30 p.m. There, Carl telephoned two people, John Mardis and Orville Bartells, whom they thought could “move” the stolen property. Wayne told the jury that at around 10 p.m. they drove to Bartells’ home in Chandlerville.

Wayne admitted in cross-examination that he had prior convictions for burglary and that he had pled guilty to these crimes and other burglaries as well.

Wayne’s wife, Mary Lou, testified for the prosecution that she was at the Beardstown cabin and overheard Wayne and Carl discussing burglary plans.

Carl’s brother, Dale Montgomery and Dale’s girlfriend Betty Simons both testified for the prosecution that they saw Carl and Wayne arrive together at Carl’s Springfield home on the evening of September 9, 1983. Dale and Betty stated that they left Carl’s home at about 9:00 p.m.

The prosecution presented telephone records showing calls made from Carl’s home the night of September 9, 1983 to Mardis and Bartells. The itemized phone bill listed long-distance calls made to Mardis’ home at 9:33 and 9:50 p.m., and a phone call to Bartells’ residence at 9:43 p.m.
 
Carl’s wife, Carol Montgomery, testified for the defense that the events of September 9, 1983, stuck out in her mind because it was their son’s birthday. She told the jury that she and Carl went to the Sears store in Springfield that afternoon to purchase a bicycle as a present for their son. She also testified that Carl spent most of the rest of the day at home working on a car. Carol further testified that several family members and friends came to the house that evening for their son’s birthday party. Carol denied that Dale Montgomery and Betty Simons stopped by that evening. Instead, Carol said Dale and Betty came over the following night—September 10, 1983.

Nearly a dozen other witnesses—all relatives or close friends—testified for the defense that they saw Carl in and around Springfield that day, and several of them said they attended the birthday party. All who attended said that Dale and Betty were not there.

In March 1984, Carl was convicted of burglary and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The following month, Carl went on trial in Macon County on the other burglary charge. The trial was a virtual carbon copy of the Moultrie County trial with one significant difference.

Barry Holtkamp, an employee at the Sears store in Springfield testified that Carl and his wife purchased a bicycle from him around 1:15 or 1:30 p.m. on September 9, 1983. Holtkamp testified that he remembered Carl because it was the only bicycle sale he made that day, and Carl joked about the bike being “junk,” but said he was buying it because it was inexpensive.

In April 1984, the Macon County jury acquitted Carl of burglary.

Carl then filed a motion in Moultrie County seeking to vacate his conviction, citing the testimony of Holtkamp.

Attorney G. Ronald Kesinger, who defended Carl in both trials, testified that although Carl and his wife had given him a bicycle receipt prior to the Moultrie Country trial, he had failed to investigate the alibi. He said he was busy interviewing other witnesses and his failure to look into it was a matter of inadvertence.

Kesinger testified, “I was given just a receipt. I wasn’t given a name so I didn’t know who to interview until I found out who the witness was. But at that point, I simply didn’t believe the defendant so I didn't think it happened.”

After Carl was convicted in Moultrie County and prior to his trial in Macon County, Carl’s wife and mother-in-law realized that the sales receipt had an employee code number. They contacted Sears and learned that the number belonged to Holtkamp.

Despite this evidence, Carl’s motion for new trial was denied. After the Illinois Appellate Court upheld Carl’s conviction on appeal, Carl filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

In July 1987, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mills granted the writ, vacated Carl’s burglary conviction and ordered a new trial. Judge Mills held that the failure to find Holtkamp was not part of any legal strategy, but was due to the lawyer’s failure to do the work. Holtkamp would have been the only disinterested defense witness, Mills noted. That Holtkamp made a difference was plain, Mills declared, because the trial where Carl was acquitted was virtually the same as the one where he was convicted, except for the addition of Holtkamp’s testimony.

In September 1987, Carl was released on bond. The prosecution appealed Mills’ ruling and in May 1988, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Mills’ decision. In September 1989, the burglary charge was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/16/2014
State:Illinois
County:Moultrie
Most Serious Crime:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1983
Convicted:1984
Exonerated:1989
Sentence:7 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:44
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No