Diane Fanning, Michale Callahan
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Defenders of the Innocents

Michale Callahan,Herb Whitlock

How it happened, I don’t know, but ImaginePublicity is so proud to represent two award winners of the Defenders of the Innocents Award from the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project in 2011.  Two people who didn’t know each other, coming from very different backgrounds, one a true crime writer, the other a former Illinois State Police officer, but both heroes in the lives of the people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit.  It’s truly an honor to be in the company of authors Diane Fanning and Michale Callahan.

May 16 marks the one year anniversary of the date the awards were given to Fanning and Callahan, and we feel there are never enough opportunities to let the public know about what this award means.  To be even a small part in the exhoneration is a lifetime achievement in our book!

Michale Callahan, author of Too Politically Sensitive:

Michale Callahan,Herb Whitlock

Michale Callahan was assigned to oversee an ISP re-investigation into the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoades in Paris, Ill., but Callahan soon began to discover problems with the case against ISP’s favored suspects, Herb Whitlock and Randy Steidl. His 2009 book, Too Politically Sensitive, documents those problems, as well as efforts by his superiors to shut down the investigation. His book and investigation became part of the Innocence Project’s effort to free Herb Whitlock, who spent more than 20 years in prison before his 2008 release.

Michale Callahan,ImaginePublicity

“When I spoke up, the State of Illinois’ only defense was to attack my freedom of speech, to attack my First Amendment rights,” Callahan says. “But what they don’t know is that they cannot silence the egregious facts of this case or those that are wrongfully convicted.”  (Illinois Times)

For information and updates, follow Michale Callahan’s Blog: CLICK HERE

Details of Herb Whitlock case: http://www.uis.edu/innocenceproject/cases/exonorees/hwhitlock/index.html

Diane Fanning, author of Through the Window

It’s not every day that a serial killer helps a writer solve a crime, so when Diane Fanning, a Texas true-crime author, received a letter from convicted killer Tommy Lynn Sells admitting to a murder in Illinois, she knew she was on to something big.

Fanning convinced Sells to give more details about the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick of Lawrenceville, Ill., and she included his confession in her 2007 book, Through the Window, which details Sells’ cross-country murder spree. The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, later used the details gathered by Fanning to free Joel’s mother, Julie Rea Harper, who had been wrongly convicted of the murder in 2002.Diane Fanning,ImaginePublicity

On May 16, 2011, almost five years after her release from prison, Harper stood in front of a crowd of people and tightly hugged Fanning, who she calls her hero. Fanning was one of four people honored for contributing to the defense of the wrongly convicted at the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project’s 10th anniversary banquet. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former Illinois State Police investigators Alva Busch and Michale Callahan also received the Innocence Project’s Defenders of the Innocent award. (Illinois Times)

To follow Diane Fanning’s Blog, Writing is a Crime: CLICK HERE

Details of Julie Rea Harper case: http://www.uis.edu/innocenceproject/cases/exonorees/jrharper/index.html

Illinois Innocence Project

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has a three-part mission:

  • to evaluate and investigate cases for credible claims of an Illinois inmate’s actual innocence, and, when appropriate, provide legal representation and/or other assistance toward proving the inmate’s actual innocence (Download a PDF copy of our Attorney Case Referral Form);
  • to encourage meaningful reforms toward preventing the conviction of innocent persons in the future;
  • to educate the public and provide important educational and experiential opportunities for students about wrongful convictions.


  1. Pingback: Shattered Lives: Michale Callahan Author of “Too Politically Sensitive” | ImaginePublicity


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