Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chicago Rippers

What Happened to the Crew?

Robin Gecht, E. Spreitzer & A. Kokoraleis
Robin Gecht, E. Spreitzer & A. Kokoraleis.
Tommy Kokoraleis, 23, attempted to block his confession from being admitted into his trial, but lost.   He was convicted in 1984 and was sentenced to 70 years in prison for his part in Lorraine Borowski's murder. Andrew Kokoraleis was tried in two separate counties.  The first trial was for the murder of Rose Beck Davis.  In his confession, he had admitted that he had abducted Davis with the other men, forced her into the van, and had beaten her with a hatchet until she was dead.  The jury deliberated just over three hours before finding him guilty of rape and murder.  They sentenced him to life in prison.

At his second trial, Kokoraleis decided to recant everything he had confessed (four different times) and to deny that he had killed or raped anyone.   He claimed that the police had coerced each of his confessions, had made false promises, and had even beaten him into admitting what they wanted him to say.  Prosecutor Brian Telander went through the interrogations performed by six separate detectives and two prosecutors, but , Kokoraleis insisted they had told him exactly what to say.  He also indicated that one police officer had told him the details of the crime scene, giving him all that he needed to confess.  Yet when Detective Warren Wilcosz took the stand to describe his interrogation, he said that when he had shown Kokoraleis a line of photos, Kokoraleis had picked out Loraine Borowski and said, "That's the girl Eddie Spreitzer and I killed in the cemetery." 

Thomas Kokoraleis
Thomas Kokoraleis.
It came down to a matter of who was more believable.   Kokoraleis was sullen and angry, and his story that eight different officials had all treated him in the same unethical manner seemed far-fetched, to say the least. The jury deliberated only three hours, Kelly reports (some accounts indicate that it was one hour), before returning their verdict.  They found Kokoraleis guilty of the murder of Lorraine Borowski and sentenced him to death.  At his sentencing hearing, he once again denied the charges, and his attorneys argued later that despite the verdict, the act did not merit the death penalty.  In addition, a prison chaplain and a counselor testified that Kokoraleis was non-threatening and could be rehabilitated.  In addition, Kokoraleis agued that he had received ineffectual counsel at sentencing, and that in the case of the murder of Rose Beck Davis (from the earlier trial), that offense had not warranted the death penalty but life in prison.  He insisted that the court had not proven his intent to kill or any degree of premeditation.  Nevertheless, the court saw otherwise, as the panel of judges dismissed the appeals and upheld the sentence in 1989.

So his attorneys tried a different tack.   They argued that Kokoraleis was a killer suffering from schizophrenia, so that he had not known what he was doing when he committed the murder.  They claimed that the trial lawyers should have entered an insanity defense, but had not.  They had not even had him psychiatrically evaluated, which was a significant oversight on their part.  The appeals attorneys also argued that when those lawyers had failed to see the need for an evaluation, the trial judge should have ordered one for the court.  He had not, however.  In fact, a prison psychiatrist had diagnosed Kokoraleis with borderline personality disorder and found him incompetent to stand trial.  (However, psychiatric diagnosis would not make him incompetent or insane, so it was a weak argument at best.)  They argued that Kokoraleis had been "vulnerable" to a strong influence and was therefore not entirely responsible for what he had done.

When the district judge queried the trial attorneys about these issues, they claimed that no pattern of aberrant behavior had made anyone who knew the defendant suspect a psychiatric disorder.   That satisfied the judge that the pending affidavit was unpersuasive.  Yet the appeals attorneys pointed to Kokoraleis's bizarre behavior as proof of his aberrant condition.  The court considered this and decided that abnormal behavior does not imply the type of mental impairment required for a finding of insanity.  In a 41-page opinion, the court said that it found no reversible error and affirmed the sentence again.

But that was not the end of the story, for a movement was afoot to overturn all death sentences in the state.

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