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Constitutional Violation is Front and Center at Latest Heidelberg Hearing

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Cass Herrington
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Peoria Public Radio

A Peoria man’s sixth amendment rights were violated 46 years ago, in a case that landed him in prison for the rest of his life.

That was one of the conclusions of the latest post-conviction hearing Thurs. for 73-year-old Cleve Heidelberg.

He was convicted of murdering a sheriff’s deputy in 1970. The state conceded that a privileged conversation between Heidelberg and his attorney was overheard and recorded by a police officer.

“The actions were clearly wrong, undeniably wrong,” Matt Jones, of the state appellate prosecutor's office, said. “But that never tainted the jury process.”

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Credit David Zalaznik / Peoria Journal Star/Press Pool
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Peoria Journal Star/Press Pool
Retired Peoria Police Officer Paul Hibser is seated in the courtroom, listening to arguments from Matt Jones, a representative of the state appellate prosecutor's office. Hibser was among the officers who arrested Cleve Heidelberg the night of May 26, 1970.

Retired Peoria Police officer Paul Hibser was among the group of officers who arrested Heidelberg the night of May 26, 1970. Hibser says until Thursday’s hearing, he didn’t know his former colleague, Emmanuel Manias, had listened in on that conversation.

“..Or stuck his nose in and eavesdropped on the lawyer. That’s stupid,” Hibser said. “And, had he [Manias] testified at trial, I think the case would have been thrown out because of a violation of civil rights.”

Peoria County Judge Al Purham concluded the case will move forward to a third stage evidentiary hearing “to get to justice.” That’s set for February 8th.

Judge Purham also says a recently acquired affidavit serves as new evidence that wasn’t used in the original trial.

“And the fact is, Cleve Heidelberg’s been sitting in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. All of us are affected, for 47 years. And we’re so close to the end now, we have to press on,” Marcella Teplitz, a detective working with Heidelberg’s defense, said. Teplitz is also a former Peoria Police officer.

The affidavit comes from Matt Clark. He’s the brother of James Clark, a slain Black Panther leader. James Clark, now deceased, claimed responsibility for murdering Sgt. Espinoza. That was a year after Heidelberg was sent to prison.