JOLIET, IL—George Howard Buell, an inmate wrongfully imprisoned at Stateville Correctional Center for third-degree sexual assault and aggravated battery, won't shut the hell up about being innocent.
Buell, 46, an Elmhurst, IL electrician, was convicted of raping and burglarizing his elderly neighbor in 1994, despite the fact that he was at work when the crime occurred. He was mistakenly sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life. Since then, his imprisonment has been a source of nonstop bellyaching.
"I'm completely innocent of the charges brought against me," Buell said in yet another long-winded jailhouse statement last week. "I am a victim of inept police work, conflict-of-interest issues among the prosecution, and a lackadaisical defense. Anyone with even a peripheral familiarity with my case could see the inconsistencies. It's a complete miscarriage of justice."
Buell's insufferable tirades have taken the form of numerous appeals to state and federal courts, unsuccessful attempts to launch public petitions, and e-publishing a 400,000-word autobiography titled Won't Someone Please Hear My Anguished Plea?
"Okay, I get it—he's innocent already," said Eric Holsapple, Buell's court-appointed attorney. "Like I don't know that. I only toiled for, like, forever years making a case out of it. Every time I talk to him, I have to brace myself—okay, here comes the sob story, again."
After spending four years trying to capture the media's attention with the story of his innocence, the wrongfully imprisoned inmate began pestering the courts in 2001 for additional DNA testing or a declaration of a mistrial.
"I will take a lie-detector test. I will do anything. I don't belong in prison," the incessant motormouth said. "The security tape in the garage where I work shows me pulling into the lot at the time the crime took place. It wasn't admitted as evidence. That fact alone should be grounds for a mistrial."
Buell's cellmate, Bob Hannan, has heard the "in jail for a crime I didn't commit" song and dance "about a million times." Said Hannan: "The parking lot surveillance videotape, the horrible injustice. I've heard it all. A lot. I didn't like the way they handled my case either. But you don't hear me yammering about it all the time. It's called moving on."
The consortium of attorneys and social-justice activists who were unlucky enough to have been assigned the task of getting Buell and his big, wrongfully imprisoned mouth out of jail have gotten perhaps the biggest earful of his whining.
Tania Schultz, a senior staff attorney at Northwestern University's Center On Wrongful Convictions, has worked on Buell's case for over two years. Although she is convinced that Buell is innocent, she is "fed up" with the subject.
"Even the unjustly incarcerated should do other things in prison, like lift weights, or knit," Schultz said. "Sadly, securing his freedom seems to be George's sole interest in life. He's obsessed with getting his life back."
Added Schultz: "All the time, it's 'free me' this, 'free me' that. Me, me, me, me, me."
Buell's brother Darron, who visited the prisoner last Friday, reported afterward that Buell "did most of the talking."
"No prizes guessing what he was talking about," Darron added.
Buell's sob story will be heard by the Illinois State Supreme Court during its next term.
"I can't wait. Since being incarcerated, my innocence is all I have to cling to in this horrible, horrible place," said Buell, echoing comments that he has made to anyone who's had the misfortune of being in contact with him at any time during the past decade. "This goes beyond my worst nightmares of anything I could imagine ever happening to me, and I hope the justice system finally does something—anything—to free me from this living nightmare."
"I just wish he'd shut his trap about it," attorney Holsapple said. "I'm working on his appeal. That's more than most prisoners get. But is he satisfied? No. All he cares about is getting out of jail. I'm like, 'George, get a life.'"