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William Carini

Other Lake County Cases with Mistaken Witness ID
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In the early morning hours of June 3, 1991, a 32-year-old woman pulled to the side of Interstate 94 in Lake County, Illinois because she was too tired to drive. At about 3 a.m., she was awakened by a man who sexually assaulted her at knifepoint.

The woman told police that she had spent June 2 in Wisconsin with relatives. During the drive home, she became tired and pulled over. She fell asleep with the windows down and the car unlocked and was awakened by a man kneeling in the passenger seat holding a knife.

She described her attacker as a clean-shaven white man with a scar over the right side of his mouth, in his late 20’s to early 30’s. He weighed about 175 to 180 pounds, was 5 feet 7 inches tall, and had dark fuzzy hair. Illinois State police generated a computerized list of more than 100 men resembling that description who lived near the area of the assault.

On July 17, 1991, the victim was shown a photographic lineup containing black and white photographs of men from the list who lived closest to the attack. After several minutes of study, she tentatively identified the photograph of 28-year-old William Carini, who did have a scar above his lip, but it was on the left rather than the right side of his face as she had originally described. He also had a mustache and the woman said her attacker was clean-shaven. When the woman told police that she was concerned that the angle of Carini’s chin was different from that of her attacker, she was shown a color photograph of Carini. She then said she thought Carini was her attacker, but she could not be completely certain.

On October 17, 1991, Carini went to the police station where he was placed in a live lineup. The victim identified him as her attacker and he was arrested on three charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault.

Carini went to trial in April 1992 in Lake County Circuit Court and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. The victim identified him as the rapist. There was no physical or forensic evidence linking Carini to the assault.

Carini’s stepfather, Lawrence Wille, testified that beginning on Saturday June 1, 1991, he and Carini spent the weekend remodeling Wille’s basement so Carini could move in. The residence was 24 miles from the site of the assault. Wille testified that they spent June 2 moving in Carini’s belongings and finished at about midnight. He said he and Carini watched movies and went to bed around 2:30 or 3 a.m.

Wille said he slept until 7 a.m. and that Carini arose around 10 a.m. He also said that Carini had a mustache for as long as he had known him and that he had the mustache on June 3, 1991.

Carini testified in his own defense that he did not assault the victim, that he was not anywhere near the assault, and that he had a mustache at the time. He conceded on cross-examination that his mustache was lighter in color in the summer due to being out in the sun.

On April 7, 1992, the judge convicted Carini of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. He sentenced Carini to 26 years in prison.

This was not Carini’s first time in a courtroom. When he was 10 years old, he testified at the trial of his mother, Ruthe, who was accused of the 1971 murder of her husband, Joseph Carbona. She said she shot him as they struggled over a gun after he beat her in a drunken rage. She was convicted and sentenced to prison.

Carini lived with his grandparents until they died while he was in high school. He then came under the care of an uncle, John Kuba. In 1983, Kuba and 19-year-old Joanne Seaquist, a friend of Carini’s, disappeared. Several months later, the bodies of Kuba and Seaquist were found in the trunk of Kuba’s car, which was parked in a garage that Carini had rented. Kuba had been shot to death and Seaquist had been strangled.

Ultimately, Carini was convicted of concealing a homicide, although police suspected him of the murders. By the time Carini was released from prison in 1987 after serving 2 ½ years, his mother had been released on parole.

At the time he was charged with the rape, Carini had fathered a son with a woman and they had moved in with Carini’s mother and her third husband.

In the years following his conviction, Carini filed numerous legal challenges, but all were denied. In 1995, he sought a new trial on the ground that the victim had recanted her identification. However, a judge ruled that the woman had signed the recantation statement under duress because she became afraid after Carini’s mother personally confronted her. The woman had later recanted the recantation.

Also in 1995, the mother of Carini’s child told authorities that Carini had admitted that he killed Kuba. Carini was subsequently convicted of the murders of Seaquist and Kuba and sentenced to life in prison, although he claimed that he shot Kuba as they struggled over a gun after he discovered that Kuba had strangled Seaquist.

Carini’s mother, who had doggedly attempted to clear her son of the rape and the murders, ultimately persuaded the Lake County State’s Attorney’s conviction integrity unit to re-examine Carini’s convictions. She went back to school to take paralegal classes to learn about the criminal justice system. She paid for Carini’s attorneys. While working at a restaurant in Lake County, she met a sheriff’s deputy who arranged for her to meet newly elected State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim in 2012. Nerheim had promised during his campaign to establish a conviction integrity unit to review potential cases of wrongful conviction.

Nerheim agreed to re-examine the case and eventually Carini’s mother turned over a box containing the physical evidence in the case. The box, she said, had been mailed to her a decade earlier, apparently mistakenly, by a forensics lab that had processed the evidence at the time of Carini’s trial. She told Nerheim that she kept the box in a closet and did not open it.

After concluding that the box had not been opened, the prosecution sent the evidence—including clothing worn by the victim and swatches of car upholstery—for DNA testing. In 2016, the testing was completed and failed to find Carini’s DNA. Although no semen was detected, the testing showed the presence of saliva and identified a partial male DNA profile. That profile was sufficient to exclude Carini, but was not sufficient to submit to the FBI’s national DNA database for comparison to DNA profiles from convicted defendants and unsolved crimes.

On January 3, 2017, Carini’s convictions were vacated at the request of Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim, who then dismissed the charges. Carini remained in prison on the murder convictions.

In June 2017, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes granted Carini a certificate of innocence, clearing the way for him to seek state compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/10/2017
Last Updated: 6/23/2017
State:Illinois
County:Lake
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1991
Convicted:1992
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:26 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:28
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*