Blogger Paul Modrowski is in prison for a murder he claims he didn’t commit. This week, producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni looks at his trial, and speaks to the one person who witnessed the murder.
PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All, I’m PJ Vogt.
ALEX GOLDMAN: And I’m Alex Goldman.
SRUTHI PINNAMANENI: And I’m here, Sruthi.
ALEX: Hi Sruthi!
PJ: Hi, “here Sruthi.” OK, so we are — what are we doing today?
SRUTHI: Part III.
PJ: Part III!
ALEX: We’re on the third part of the “On the Inside” series that we have been doing over the past couple of weeks. If you have not listened to the first two episodes, you are going to be totally lost listening to this one. So go back and listen to the previous two weeks of “Reply All”. Uh, you won’t regret it.
But, to bring you up to speed —
PJ: Why are we bringing somebody up to speed if we’re not – if we’ve already told them. Who’s left? We just — we just split the audience in half. There’s people who heard it, who should be listening, and people who haven’t. So who is this for?
ALEX: This is for the people who’ve listened to it. We are going to bring them up to speed so we can launch right into this episode.
PJ: What do you think it means when you say, “Bring someone up to speed?”
ALEX: It means —
PJ: Tell them things they already know? … Maybe it’s a refresher.
ALEX: [sigh] Oh boy…
PJ: OK, so, just as a quick refresher, Sruthi, you have been telling the story of Paul Modrowski…
PJ: Um, and you found him because you found his blog. And you got really into his blog, and then you actually started talking to him, which led you to his case.
PJ: Last week, you told the story of Paul’s life in high school. In high school, he fell in with this group of, basically like, small town, small time crooks.
So one of those kids, Dean Fawcett, was murdered. And that is the murder that Paul was convicted of. He says that he didn’t do it. Either he’s telling the truth or he’s lying. And besides Paul, the only person who knows for sure what happened is his friend Bob. Bob says he and Paul were there together and Paul murdered Dean. So, it’s actually really stark. Like, either Paul’s lying or Bob’s lying.
SRUTHI: Right. And so, I wanted to talk to Bob. Bob Faraci.
I flew to Chicago, went to this building, no clue whether that was his house or not. I left a note under the door and, against all probability, I got a voice message from him saying “Hey this is Bob Faraci, I’ll talk to you, come meet me at this restaurant today.” So I went. He arrived with his girlfriend —
PJ: He brought his girlfriend?
SRUTHI: Right. He brought his girlfriend there, he said, because he was nervous about talking to me and that just, kind of — I don’t know, he felt protected.
ALEX: What did he look like?
SRUTHI: He was very dapper. He had this crisp white shirt, he was about my height. Clean shaven head.
PJ: If you saw him on the street and you had to guess what his job was.
SRUTHI: Probably finance? Like, he dressed well.
SRUTHI: We decided to talk in his car. He had this nice SUV that was parked outside. And we get in, Bob Faraci and I were in the front seat and his girlfriend sits in the back. And, uh, we start talking.
SRUTHI: So do you need to pull out of here and move somewhere else?
GIRLFRIEND: No, we’re gonna stay right here.
BOB FARACI: I told him I’d stay here for a minute.
SRUTHI: Well, you’re gonna be more than a minute, let me tell you.
BOB: Whatever. Uh-oh, uh-oh.
SRUTHI: Tell me your name.
BOB: My name is Robert Faraci.
SRUTHI: Alright, so, where did you grow up?
BOB: I grew up in the town of Barrington until I was about…15. Multiple places as a younger child and we relocated.
SRUTHI: And what were you like growing up, I — can I guess?
SRUTHI: You were very social…
BOB: Right. [laughs]
SRUTHI: Kind of an entrepreneur type?
BOB: I wanted to be. But, uh —
SRUTHI: What did you want to be?
BOB: You know, I really wanted to be, I don’t know, I can’t answer that…I don- I really — you know I — I think about it now, I never really had a plan of what I wanted to do, I was just living life so fast, the fastest that I can. And uh — I never applied myself with anything. I’ve always tried to take the easy and fast way out and I’ve hurt myself tremendously. To this day. To this day.
SRUTHI: Bob says that he has a lot of regrets. He’s had, at this, point two stints in prison. One for two years, another for nine years. He’s 48, he’s a bartender.
But, when he talks about meeting Paul, you know, this moment that set off a lot of the bad parts of his life, it’s almost as if he’s reminiscing.
BOB: I was a ballbuster back then. And, you know what, he amused me. You know what, not in a funny way where I’m trying to be mean, but… it was just different. You know what I mean? it was just different.
SRUTHI: What — what amused you about him?
BOB: Because he was different. He was different, but — I could explain it better if – if…you understood where I come from. How do I f–? OK, here: I want you to think of Godfather. You’ve seen that. Do you know who Luca Brasi is?
BOB: In the beginning of the movie, he was seeing Vito Corleone, and he was practicing on what to say. “Don Corleone, thank you for inviting me to your daughter’s wedding.” He had no personality. There was no fun to this guy. And then there’s me, “Get the fuck out of here, just talk to the fucking guy!” That’s was the difference. That is ex- what the difference was.
SRUTHI: So, Bob was a flashy guy, Paul was the quiet, you know, kind of uptight one. And Bob even at one point says that he, Bob, was like the Joe Pesci character from GoodFellas. And when he said, that it totally clicked for me because Paul had said the exact same thing.
I hadn’t expected them to tell the same story. But there were so many moments like that in the conversation.
And then we get to the night of Dean’s murder. Bob, just completely, his whole energy shifts. He’s suddenly uncomfortable. He’s fidgeting, shaking his leg, starts to keep turning the heat on and off in the car.
SRUTHI: Can you tell me Robert…can you just tell me…
BOB: Tell you what?
SRUTHI: Tell me what happened.
BOB: Oh…this here’s all under… I don’t want to get into this again. This is —
SRUTHI: So you don’t want to talk about…
BOB: I don’t want to talk about that. You’re — again, this, you’re opening a can of worms in my life.
SRUTHI: I am opening a can of worms. I’m sorry. I feel…. No no no.
BOB: And it’s very very difficult for me. You’re doing — you’re doing your job.
SRUTHI: I feel bad.
BOB: Again, I’m not upset. I don’t get upset like that. Um. I’m just wondering what your — what your point is on doing this. Actually, actually, now…how do I know you’re not a P.I.? How do I know who you really are?
SRUTHI: Can I show you? Wait, wait.
BOB: You’re asking some serious questions —
SRUTHI: I’m sorry.
BOB: — and I don’t know why you’re asking these questions.
SRUTHI: Alright. Can I show you this? This is a story I did in January.
[Audio from phone]
WOMAN: Come in, like, something you —
PJ: And I’m PJ Vogt.
SRUTHI: OK, here.
PJ: Um, we’re here because Sruthi Pinnamaneni has a story for us.
SRUTHI: Yes, I do. Um, so…
BOB: Ok, Sruthi, I don’t have to listen this twice.
SRUTHI: I’m sorry, I just want to say I’m not a P.I.
BOB: But, I’m saying, look, look no, OK, besides that.
SRUTHI: I’m not a P.I.
BOB: You’re asking me questions that are really, really detailed at this time.
BOB: These are some questions a cop would ask. I’m not saying you’re a cop, but these are some very, very serious questions.
SRUTHI: Can I, I’m sorry. I can see you’re getting upset.
BOB: I’m not, no, trust me, I’m not upset. I’m – I’m – OK.
SRUTHI: No no, I understand.
SRUTHI: This is hard stuff.
SRUTHI: This is hard stuff.
BOB: It’s something I haven’t seen.
SRUTHI: So listen, I’ll tell you something. There are a few things I don’t understand with this. With this whole, the – the trial, the prosecution’s position —
BOB: Timeout. Leave this in the car. Leave this in the car. Come outside for a second.
SRUTHI: Oh yeah. Yeah. Hang on.
SRUTHI: So, we get out of the car at this point. Bob is just shaking all over. I tell him, “Listen, I have questions about the night that Dean died. I have to know what happened.” And he says, “I can’t talk about it, it’s too traumatic, I can’t get these images out of my head.”
Eventually, you know, he calms down..we get back in the car.
BOB: I don’t want to get into details of what happened that night.
SRUTHI: Ok, um.
BOB: I just want to tell you this. This is, uh, something that, uh…I don’t care about what these cops…cops say because they don’t — they live a different life. They uh…uh, this poor kid. This poor kid. That’s all I can say. If it makes, you know, they…I don’t even know how to say it.
SRUTHI: Which kid, Dean?
BOB: Yeah. Nobody in this world deserves anything like that. Nobody. Nobody deserves that. Noff-body. Nobody. Nobody. People are going to say a lot of bad things about me after you give them this little interview — which is stupid — but, uh, you know what? If you think I did it, then think I did it. I’m — I don’t care.
If Paul wants to — if he wants to say this or that, he – he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do…but you know what? I live like this because…that’s who I am…I – I wear my emotions on my sleeve. And that, that’s who I am.
SRUTHI: I…didn’t know what to do with this, I just decided to try another approach. So, before the trial, Bob had given the police tons of contradictory statements about Dean’s murder. At first, he said their friend Brian was the killer, and then at some point Brian dropped out of the story, and the he said Paul was the bad guy. In another statement, he said, “Paul once held a gun to a baby’s head.”
It – it sounded to me like Bob basically just had thrown anything at the wall to see what would stick. And so, I asked him about that.
SRUTHI: I think one of the police reports, I – that your statements were in there.
BOB: I, You know, under intense pressure like that, I said some stupid things.
BOB: I was under so much pressure. I – you know, think about that. Think about that. And um… I didn’t know which way to go.
SRUTHI: Can I turn this off?
BOB: You can do whatever you want. Yeah, right here, right here.
SRUTHI: OK, thank you. Um…OK, so, you’re talking to the cops…what’s, like, what’s — what’s going on in your head like, well, “I’m going to tell them whatever”? To, like what —
BOB: Correct. Correct. “I’m going to tell them whatever to try to take the heat off me.” And I did that. And I lied. Yes, I did. Believe what you want to believe, you know what I mean?
SRUTHI: Anyway, Bob says that the bottom line is he told a lot of lies to the police, but the true story of what happened that night — that’s the story he told at trial, and that’s the one I should follow.
So, the trial. I thought that looking at the trial documents would give me, just, a more straightforward account? A more straightforward account than Bob was giving me in the car. ‘Cause that’s the way trials work, right? The prosecution tell a story, the defense tells a different story, and you decide which one you believe.
Except, that’s not what happened at all. Somehow, at Paul and Bob’s trial, the prosecution didn’t tell one story — they told two. Two stories that didn’t at all line up. And here’s how that worked.
It starts January 17, 1995. Both Bob and Paul, they’re co-defendants. So, it’s same courtroom, the same prosecutor, But…it’s so hard for me to describe — it’s like a total, it’s a, it’s like a — it’s a clown car. Like, I’ve never heard of a trial like this. It’s a double jury trial, which means that Bob and Paul gets his own jury.
ALEX: And do the juries get to listen to both people being tried?
SRUTHI: No. No. So, it’s so, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, the way the whole thing works together. So, there are moments when both juries are in the room at the same time. And then there’s moments where, uh, you know, the prosecutors make their opening statements for Bob, Paul’s jury has to leave.
And then the prosecution makes the opening statement for Paul, so Paul’s jury comes back in and Bob’s jury leaves. And so, each jury essentially saw one trial, but they both saw very different trials. Is that super confusing?
PJ: No it’s not.
ALEX: Not, it’s not.
ALEX: But, I mean, was the prosecutor saying in one trial, uh, “Bob Faraci is the mastermind of this,” and in the other trial, “Paul Modrowski is the mastermind of this”?
SRUTHI: Something like that.
SRUTHI: But, throughout the trial — which would last five weeks — throughout this trial, the two people who are always there are Bob Faraci at his table and there’s Paul Modrowski at his table.
PJ: So they’re seeing each other’s trials as well.
SRUTHI: Yes. Exactly. So, they’re seeing everything. So, let me start with Bob’s case. The prosecution had a very, very strong case against Bob. Because, Bob Faraci had given them a recorded, signed confession. He said, “I was there the night that Dean was killed.
His defense is that he was there, but he didn’t do it. He was just, you know, a helpless witness, that Paul had done everything. But the problem with that is that it’s really, really hard to prove. As Bob’s own defense attorney, Beth Miner, explained to me:
BETH MINER: Who wins cases just saying, “Well, I was there but I — you know — I didn’t know what he was going and I didn’t participate and I didn’t help in any sort of way.”
It’s like, “Oh, right, but you went there with the guy and you left with the guy. And then you lived with the guy. Right. We’re really going to believe that.”
But he had to tell a story. I mean, he had to get up on the stand and he had to testify.
SRUTHI: So, even though it was a completely risky move, on Feb 9th, Bob Faraci took the stand. And, remember, only his jury would hear what he had to say. Paul’s jury is out of the room. There’s a news article about that moment, and I’m reading exactly what Bob said:
He said, “We (Paul and I) went down the embankment like he was jumping into a swimming pool. I thought this whole thing was a sick joke. I didn’t think anybody actually died … I heard some sawing noise. And then, he looked up at me … with a weird expression.”
Bob then tells the court that Paul had Dean Fawcett’s head in his hands. And he said, quote, “This is what I’ll do to you and your wife if you ever say anything,”
Bob says he then vomited.
BOB: The best witness in the case for me, um, was me. I really didn’t have any witness. I was basically the only one. And I was on that, I was on that stand for an hour and a half. And, I’ll never forget that. That was…that was, that was, uh … you needed to see that. You needed to see that.
SRUTHI: How did you feel during the trial? Like, did you feel like it was going well?
BOB: I don’t know what’s going well. What you do is you listen and you make eye contact. And I looked at EVERY SINGLE ONE to say, “I didn’t do this.” Every single one.
Did Paul look at his? I doubt it.”
SRUTHI: Bob’s whole defense is to say that Paul’s evil, he’s a sociopath.
And the problem for Paul….is that the prosecution has a lot of evidence that tells the same story. That evidence after the break.
PJ: Welcome back to the show. Sruthi picks up the story with the prosecution’s case against Paul Modrowski.
SRUTHI: So, back in the courtroom, unlike Bob Faraci, Paul is completely silent for his entire trial. He’s surrounded by a team of lawyers, really good ones, from this big corporate law firm. And these lawyers had a lot to worry about. Because, the prosecutors had dropped you know, all of Paul’s alleged connection to the Brown’s Chicken massacre — and it turned out, years later, that there was actually zero connection — but still, Paul’s lawyers were convinced that the members of the jury must have heard about this thing, that they came in prejudiced.
And even without that, there was still all these pieces of incriminating pieces of evidence to contend with. For instance, police had found a mapbook in Paul’s bedroom, where — if you open the page to Barrington, Illinois — you’d see, right where Dean’s body was found, a little mark — like, “X marks the spot.”
And then, on top of that, crucial witness testimony from two of Paul’s friends, Brian and Rose Faraci, who both say they’d heard him talk about wanting to kill Dean.
But then, just before the trial, all of this evidence would just collapse.
So, take the map.
PAUL: Before trial — we’re preparing this, like, days before trial.
PAUL: And my attorney is like — the evidence is now in the courtroom. They bring in, you know, the physical evidence and my, one of my attorneys happens to look at the map book and he turns to the page and he’s looking at it. And he’s looking at it. And, uh, he’s like, “This ain’t no damn pen mark. This is a line by the publisher.” And so Bill Von Hoene, I believe. . .
SRUTHI: That’s Paul’s defense attorney.
PAUL: . . . he orders 10 copies from Rand McNally — that’s the map book manufacturer — of the same exact map book.
PAUL: And it all, all of them have that exact same line. It ain’t no, “X marks the spot.” It ain’t no check mark. It ain’ t no. . .it’s just a line and it’s on all the maps.
SRUTHI: So the mapbook? Gone. And then Brian, Rose Faraci, they recant. Brian says, “I never heard Paul say anything about wanting to kill Dean. The police took my statements out of context.” And then Rose —
PAUL: Rose Faraci went to the state’s attorney’s office to go over her testimony once again before trial. And Rose, basically, she comes out and tells the truth. She’s like, “Everything we said about Paul Modrowski … and the Barrington murder, we just made up.”
And when I heard that news — my attorneys came to visit me like right away after they heard that news — I thought the charges we gonn- were going to be dropped against me. And they said, “No, no. The state’s attorney’s office will never, ever drop these charges.”
SRUTHI: Here’s why. I spoke to James McKay, who is the prosecutor, and it’s been twenty-something years since this trial, but, like, when you talk to McKay now, he’s just as convinced and convincing about Paul as, I mean, as I imagine he was back then.
JAMES MCKAY: This crime could not have been committed by one person, alright? The kidnapping of Dean Fawcett — a young adult —
MCKAY: — by Robert Faraci? No, this – this – this crime was — was committed by two people.
SRUTHI: McKay says Dean was murdered on December 28, 1992. That’s the day after that night of partying at the Ramada Inn.
MCKAY: I believe that Paul Modrowski took him to those railroad tracks in Barrington and, along with Bob Faraci, shot him in the head and then severed his body parts soon thereafter and disposed of those body parts never to be found.
SRUTHI: Paul has consistently painted himself as this side character. So, this guy who always stood back, followed other people… but this is not at all how McKay sees him. McKay sees Paul as the mastermind.
MCKAY: Everybody who was part of this ring all saw Paul as the lead manipulator of Dean. They all saw Paul as the person who used physical force on Dean to get him to commit these, uh, thefts. Using these bogus checks.
SRUTHI: So what you’re saying is that Paul was the ringleader?
MCKAY: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
SRUTHI: Even though Robert was the older guy? Like, he was what, like 26-27? When —
MCKAY: He wasn’t that much older.
SRUTHI: Right, Bob —
MCKAY: Paul Modrowski —
SRUTHI: — was seven years older than him, Bob Faraci.
MCKAY: OK. It doesn’t matter. Uh, he was still an adult, he was 18 at the time of these — uh, uh time of this murder. And more importantly, he was more streetwise that, than many other criminals are. This guy had been committing several crimes as young as the age of 12. Um, so whether he was 18 or 80 he was a — a – a wise, cagey veteran in the criminal world.
SRUTHI: Did you ever have just like hard evidence that he pulled the trigger?
MCKAY: Uh-w- the hard evidence, as you call it, included, among other things, the medical examiner had testified about the severing of Dean’s hands and his head and how the cutting instrument, whatever the cutting instrument was, it was done with a steady hand — it wasn’t haphazardly done and if you saw Paul Modrowski —
SRUTHI: Is –I’m sorry.
SRUTHI: Is that — that’s your evidence, like the steady hand?
MCKAY: No. Well, that’s part of all of the evidence. It’s not just THE one thing. You saw it, when you talked to him, that Paul Modrowski is one cool customer, not like the uh the nervous lying weasel that Bob Faraci is.
SRUTHI: And McKay, he has a witness who, he says, can prove that Paul was this calculating killer.
So on the second day of the trial, he calls this woman to the stand. Her name is Nadine Lenarzcyk. She’s 33 years old, neatly dressed, has long bleached blond hair. And she testifies that she knew Dean, she was actually part of that whole Christmas shopping spree. You know, that they went on —
PJ: So she was involved in the check fraud stuff.
SRUTHI: Yeah, exactly. And, so, Nadine’s story is that she was alone with Dean that night. And he said to her at one point, “If I get in trouble, I’m gonna go tell the police everything,” as in, “I’m going to put this whole thing on Bob and Paul and the others.”
SRUTHI: And so, Nadine apparently went and told Bob Faraci this.
SRUTHI: So the police are convinced this is their motive. They know Bob knew, he probably told Paul, and so their motive — you know — Dean was killed because these guys were afraid that he was going to rat them out — that makes sense.
SRUTHI: And so, the other thing Nadine does is she puts Bob Faraci and Paul with Dean Fawcett right before he’s killed.
So, Paul’s story is — morning of December 28th, he woke up in that hotel room and left. He left, Dean was sleeping, he never saw him again. Paul says that he drove to his sister’s house that day and was there until midnight. Nad-
PJ: Why does he remember that December —
SRUTHI: Because it’s his Dad’s birthday.
PJ: Oh, OK.
SRUTHI: So this is his story. Nadine says that she was with Dean Fawcett December 28th.
MCKAY: She was the eyewitness that saw Faraci and Modrowski pull up in Modrowski’s car. She saw Modrowski grab Dean Fawcett, force him into the backseat of that car, and then watched the three of them drive away. She never saw Dean again. And that date was the date that Dean Fawcett was killed.
PJ: That feels pretty damning.
SRUTHI: Yes. And —
PJ: Does she have any reason to lie?
SRUTHI: She…I mean she seems relatively unbiased but there are problems with her testimony. So, I’m actually looking at the trial transcript from that day and the — Paul’s defense attorney asks her, you know, uh, when she was a kid, he said, “At that time you suffered some damage to the brain, right?” And Nadine answers, “Yes.”
And then he asks, “And when you’re under stress, you experience difficulty seeing and hearing, don’t you?” McKay objects, he’s overruled. And then Nadine says, “Yes”. And then the defense attorney asks, “And there have been instances in your life where you have found yourself in places not knowing how you got there?” Again McKay tries to object, overrules, and Nadine says, “Yes.”
And it just goes on like this for pages and pages. The defense attorney asks about her extensive drug use, cocaine, and Paul says, in his blog, that Nadine’s answers during this cross examination came off as so quote-unquote “ludicrous” that a few times there was laughter in the courtroom.
So, she’s not exactly a witness who you want to base your entire case on. You need more.
And so, McKay explains, he has another thing that he considers hard evidence — the gun.
So, police were very convinced that Dean was shot in the head. There was no gun that they ever found. But, when they arrested Paul and they were interrogating him, they kept asking him, “Where the murder weapon? Where’s the murder weapon?” And Paul says that at some point, he said, “I know where the gun is.” And he says, “I was just lying, I just said it under interrogation stress.” But —
PJ: But he just implicated himself.
SRUTHI: Right, I know. It’s asinine.
PJ: How old was he?
SRUTHI: And, this whole tail-chase, it never ends. You know, who knows what Paul knew — maybe he knew where the gun was, maybe he didn’t — the point is, the gun is ever found.
And once Paul claims he’s knows where the gun is, it would never leave the minds of the police.
Jim McKay would bring it up throughout the trial. I mean, watch how he brings up the missing gun here with me, when I ask him about physical evidence —
SRUTHI: Can you tell me about what was for you the most compelling physical evidence?
MCKAY: The — actually, you know what? The absence of – of the physical evidence in a way is compelling.
MCKAY: Modrowski, at the time of his arrest, knew exactly where the murder weapon was and he refused to give that to the police. Refused to divulge the location of that gun. That speaks volumes. That – that’s powerful evidence of guilt.
SRUTHI: Jim just said, “The absence of evidence is compelling evidence.” And he used this idea more than once in the trial. For instance, there’s this reporter, John Carpenter, he told me this story of how McKay had submitted some evidence about how there was blunt trauma to Dean’s head and then —
JOHN CARPENTER: Somebody objected, saying that there’s no evidence of blunt trauma to the head because there’s no head. The head was never found. And it was one of these moments where you’re sitting there watching and you’re thinking, “Wow. This really kind of important testimony or piece of evidence might get thrown out.” And there was like a pause, but then Mckay like jumped up and really emphatically said, “Your honor, I submit that absence of a head is clear and convincing evidence of blunt trauma to the head.” His idea is, “I am the law. I am outraged that this murder happened and my job is to put these guys away.”
SRUTHI: Jim McKay is saying to the jury every chance he gets, “You know, Nadine Lanarchek, that missing gun, all of this is proof that Paul Modrowski is the killer.”
The problem is he doesn’t have any physical evidence to place Paul at the railroad track that night. But he’s saying, “It doesn’t matter, I have something else that’s perfectly adequate to convict him.”
So, the third week of the trial, prosecutor McKay calls John Robertson to the stand.
Detective Robertson is the person who first arrested Paul and interrogated him right after. And according to him, Paul confessed to him, and said, “I knew that Bob Faraci wanted to kill Dean Fawcett. I didn’t want to go along with him, but I told Bob, ‘Go ahead, use my car.’”
Detective Robertson wrote all of this up in this very long, detailed report. I have it right here. It’s like these, um, you know, it’s neat typewritten notes. And he says this is what Paul told him:
“Bobby wanted me to go along to ‘Houdini’ Dean. Bobby asked me to go with and I told him, ‘No.’ I told him he could use my car. I used the excuse to Dean that I was tired. I knew Bobby was going to ‘Houdini’ (kill) Dean. I gave him my car to take Dean away. I went into the apartment and I never saw or heard from Dean again.”
Which seems not so exciting because…
PJ: Well, it actually seems contrary to everything… if they’re trying to prove that he did it…well, how does it help to say that he said he didn’t do it and wasn’t’ there?
SRUTHI: Yeah — so they’re, they’re thinking, “We don’t have enough physical evidence to show that he pulled the trigger. But we don’t need that. And we can actually use this statement to get him convicted.” And here’s why:
McKay is thinking about this a law in Illinois that says you don’t need to pull the trigger, all you need to have done is help someone you know is going to kill someone and you are accountable for that murder.
PJ: Ok. That actually… that doesn’t seem like…that seems reasonable.
ALEX: Yeah that’s not a huge leap at all.
SRUTHI: Yup. And so, all prosecutor McKay has to do is show that Paul helped Bob Faraci, lent him his car, knowing, hoping that Bob would go kill Dean Fawcett. But.
Paul’s lawyer believes that this law may not even apply to Paul. In this case that, you know, in this case with the lending of the car. And he has a team of legal researchers look into it, and they come back and they say. “Short answer: Nope, doesn’t apply.”
So Paul’s defense team says, “OK, go ahead, McKay, make your argument, we’re not gonna sweat it.”
But Paul, he says he was sitting there thinking, Whoa whoa whoa! First of all, I didn’t lend my car to Bob Faraci that day. And second of all, I never told the cops I lent my car to him.” So he just doesn’t understand his defense attorney’s strategy — why isn’t he challenging the cops?
PAUL: When that cop testified that I let Dean go to his death…I’m not very good — I’m not very good at reading people, but I could tell that the jury…they – they – their – their demeanor changed, their body language changed towards me. And I told my attorney while he was in, while he was cross-examining that cop…I told him, “You get the ‘f’ back up there and you cut him down. What the hell are you doing?” I think that’s almost an exact quote. He was like, “What do you mean? He called you a cooperating witness. This is great!” I said, “No, it’s not great. Go back up there and cut him down!”
SRUTHI: Paul’s so angry he tells his lawyer, “Let me take the stand, let ME tell everybody that this guy Robertson is lying.”
PAUL: And so we argue about this for a little while and, eventually, he just says, “Look — if you, if you say that you want to take the stand, I’m just gonna quit! You can represent yourself!” [sighs] And, I don’t know if you know how stressful it is…being under a murder trial, but — that just, that just threw me off — I didn’t, I didn’t know how to deal with that.
I asked Paul’s defense attorneys several times if they would do an interview with me and they declined. And, I was actually wondering, like, this thing that Paul is claiming that this is a false confession? Could that — I mean, could that possibly be true? I mean, people are always accusing police of falsifying confessions, but…I did actually think that there are things here, in this confession that felt, that I have questions about.
So, for instance, the report just repeatedly calls Bob, “Bobby.” You know, and Paul always calls Bob, “Bob.” Another thing is, OK so, Paul was interrogated April 28th and 29th, and this report is dated and signed a whole 19 days later. Umm..
PJ: And had… I mean, so I get why that’s unusual. I’m assuming…
SRUTHI: Can I tell you the most unusual thing?
PJ: Yeah. Yeah.
SRUTHI: The most unusual thing is …in in my eyes… is uh… the police had questioned a number of other suspects and witnesses, like Bob Faraci….
PJ: That’s what I was going to ask. Had they done it in between?
SRUTHI: Exactly. Rose Faraci, Bob Faraci and in all of those cases, they had, you know, handwritten statements from these people, or like in Bob Faraci’s case, they transcribed everything he said and he signed every single page. In Paul’s case, none of that. Like, you just have the detective’s report and the only other signature there is another detective’s.
PJ: Like, you don’t… I feel like people have different attitudes towards whether they trust law enforcement or not.
PJ: You don’t have to be super paranoid or super anti-law enforcement to believe that in the 1990s a police officer in Illinois could have had a… could have forced confession or created a false confession.
PJ: Like this was a documented thing that happened, so much so that when Obama was a state senator, one of his big achievements was passing a law that said like, “Police in Illinois have got to tape confessions” because, essentially, like, we don’t trust the ones that the cops write down.
SRUTHI: Right. So I really wanted to talk to John Robertson, and understandably maybe, he didn’t want to talk to me.
But his partner, John Koziol, who’s also there during the interrogation, he did talk to me. And, I have to say, he had pretty good explanations for things. He said, “You know, maybe Paul didn’t want to sign a statement. Like that happens all the time where somebody says some things to the cops but they don’t want to put their name to paper because they’re worried that they’ve already gotten themselves into trouble, that would make it worse.” He says, “We write reports after…like days, weeks after the interrogation. That happens too. Like this was a big case.” And most of all he says, “Why would we have made up such an idiotic lie?”
JOHN KOZIOL: We would – if we were to make up a lie to send an innocent man to jail, we’d make up a better one than loaning a car to go kill someone. You know, I want to make it clear, I didn’t get into this business to ever lock up an innocent man, there would be nothing worse. I mean we would … if I thought Paul was innocent I’d be the first one showing up at those hearings to fight for his innocence. I… I… It’s just not something that is even in my psyche or anyone I ever worked with.
SRUTHI: Why would they have made this … THIS thing up about you lending your car?
PAUL: Why? Because they take something you say and they manipulate and they twist it into something.
SRUTHI: Right right. But you told me time and time again, you said, “I told the cops nothing. All I said was, ‘Give me an attorney.’”
PAUL: No, I never said that, I did tell them things. Under coercion. But, what they said I said was inaccurate and some of it’s outright false.
SRUTHI: But tell me what you actually did say. Like, help me understand this.
PAUL: You know, the Faracis did borrow my car all the time and I did say that. The Faracis always borrowed my car. No, I did not borrow Bob my car on the 28th to kill Dean Fawcett with. Never. That report is total garbage. Now, of course, there’s some truth in that garbage. But when you put it all together, it’s bullshit.
SRUTHI: I’ve never heard you curse this much.
PAUL: You just caught me on a bad day.
SRUTHI: It’s the fourth week of the trial, Paul’s lawyers had planned to call alibi witnesses on Paul’s behalf. Like Bernadette, Paul’s sister, she was supposed to go up and take the stand and say, “December 28th, the day that Dean was allegedly murdered, I was with Paul. He was at my house. It was my father’s birthday and he was nowhere near the scene of the crime.” But she says, that that day Bill Von Hoene, Paul’s defense attorney, had prepped her, she was ready to go….
BERNADETTE PERZANOWSKI: Um… we were there ready to testify. And Bill Von Hoene came out and he told us, “We’re not going to need you.” And I had this blank look on my face like, “What?” You know? And uh… he says, “The state never proved that Paul’s guilty and we don’t really have to put on a defense because they never proved that he was guilty.” And I remember going downstairs to the courtroom and talking with Paul. Paul was so angry. He wanted us to testify and I told him, “Paul don’t worry. Don’t worry!” Because he was very upset. Visibly upset. Um that he wasn’t gonna testify and we weren’t gonna testify.
SRUTHI And what was he — do you remember what he was saying? Like what was he…yeah.
BERNADETTE: You know, I don’t. I can’t quote him ex- but I know he banged his fist down on the counter. He was angry and crying at the same time. “No! I need to testify. W- everyone needs to testify!” I just trusted them and I kept telling Paul, “No, don’t worry about it. They know what they’re doing. They’ve done this before. They know. We don’t know. They know. “
SRUTHI: So yeah, the defense rests.
And then the prosecution, McKay’s partner, makes the closing statement. I’m gonna read you the last lines. He points at Paul Modrowski and he says,
“They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Don’t look into his eyes, you may have shivers come up your spine. And surely, don’t touch him. For if you do, his body must truly be cold to the touch.”
PAUL: The last time I cried, I was at trial. Those were the last tears I shed. And it was when I realized that that jury was going to convict me.
PAUL: I could just — I could just feel it. I knew I was going to be found guilty and I, I met with my parents and I told them, I said, “Look — you don’t have a son anymore.” Because I knew the judge was going to give me so much time that I would never, ever be released.
SRUTHI: The two juries break to deliberate. Bob Faraci’s jury comes back with the verdict: NOT GUILTY.
Which everyone thinks is shocking. After all, this was the man who had a signed, recorded confession saying that he was there at the murder scene.
And then Paul: days later, Paul’s jury comes back — and when they do, they say, “We find you guilty.”
And here’s why:
Remember that whole argument about whether or not lending somebody your car could be the same as murdering someone? So, the prosecution turns out was right and Paul’s lawyer was wrong.
So not only did not defend him against that, in his closing argument, Bill Von Hoene, his lawyer, he actually says, “So what if Paul lent Bob Faraci his car?”
PJ: So he’s, like, accidentally saying, “So what if my client is guilty?”
SRUTHI: Exactly. I actually asked Paul’s current attorney Jennifer Blagg about this and she said when she read this part of the transcript, she basically fell out of her chair.
SRUTHI: Did the trial have a turning point, like a moment?
JENNIFER BLAGG: Yeah! When Bill Von Hoene said he loaned the car! Fuckin’, just put the nail in the coffin! Roll him out! It’s over! You know what I mean? Yeah, that’s a turning point. Once your attorney concedes the state’s evidence is correct and the state’s evidence is sufficient to convict you, then it’s done.
PJ: That’s so crazy.
SRUTHI: Yeah, and Paul is up for the death sentence at this point.
ALEX: It’s really hard to wrap my head around that.
SRUTHI: I know. And, you know, the reason I started paying attention to this entire trial is because I thought it would help me answer this question which is at the heart of this whole thing — is Paul who he says he is, or is he a murderer? Is his blog basically, you know, a hundred and something thousand words of a murderer pretending to be a charming eccentric.
And in the end, what’s frustrating is, the prosecution, I think the prosecution never had to prove who Paul really was. I mean, they talked about it. They said he was evil. But to win the case, all they needed to say was, “This guy, he lent his car to Bob Faraci.”
PJ: I mean, a thing that I feel like I wonder is, from your perspective, like in the trial, I think it can feel like the jurors, the people there, got a really narrow view of Paul.
PJ: But, the people there also…
SRUTHI: Because he didn’t say a single word, he just sat there the entire time.
SRUTHI: Which is the exact opposite of the version of the Paul that I’ve been getting. I’ve been getting just all these words, like all these blog entries, all these phone calls.
PJ: And I think that somebody who was there, like I wonder if they would say, “Well you have a narrow view of him.” Like, if all you know is what somebody looks like on paper, you don’t know them.
SRUTHI: Absolutely. And that’s exactly what they say. So I have spoken to reporters who covered this trial, I’ve talked to jury members, you know, who sat there and looked at Paul for five weeks. I’ve talked to Dean Fawcett’s mother, who was there everyday, and every single one of them says, “Listen, if you were sitting there in that room, you would know.” I mean, one person said to me, “You know, I don’t believe, like, I think the idea of evil evil, as this concrete thing, I think that’s really silly and dramatic. But honestly, sitting there in the room, that’s how I felt. That I was in the presence of something really, really evil.”
ALEX: Sruthi Pinnamaneni is a producer for our show. Next time on Reply All, what all of these people are seeing. And the conclusion of our story, “On the Inside.”
Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me, Alex Goldman. The show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, and Chloe Prasinos. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. The show is edited by Peter Clowney. Production assistance from Thom Cote. The show was mixed by Rick Kwan and Austin Thompson. The show was fact checked by Michelle Harris.
Matt Lieber is the first day of the year that you can fall asleep with the window open.
Special thanks this week to Eric Mennel, Eilís O’Neill, Zac Stuart-Pontier, Marc Smerling, Anthony O’ Rourke, Jason Oei, Iona Siewerth, James Hrycko, Nicole Santilli, and Detective Kevin Croke. Big thanks to Richard McAdams of the University of Chicago for his excellent legal advice. And extra-special thanks to Mary Kay Fawcett.
Our theme music is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder and our ad music is by Build Buildings. You can find more episodes at itunes.com/replyall. Our website is replyall.fail.
Thanks for listening, we are taking next week off to work on some stories, but we will see you in two weeks for the conclusion of “On the Inside.”