Kennedy gives powerful presentation at Sangamon
By Heather Shaffer
After receiving a standing
ovation upon his entrance into the Sangamon Auditorium at UIS,
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. stated to the audience, “At a reception
before this event I was asked what I think the biggest
environmental problem facing our nation is today and I said the
Kennedy visited UIS to give a
presentation entitled “Our Environmental Destiny” on Wednesday
March 3, 2004. His is the second appearance in a lecture series,
which began last year with Morris Dees, sponsored by the Office of
Student Life and the students of UIS, according to Cynthia
Thompson, Director of Student Life.
Kennedy is the son of Robert
Kennedy and the nephew of the former President John F. Kennedy.
“I am use to being called Bobby’s son, Jack’s nephew, or Patrick’s
cousin. And in California everyone is saying ‘Oh you’re Arnold’s
cousin, right?’” he said.
During his introduction of Kennedy,
Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said, “Kennedy
has built a strong reputation as a resolute defender of the
environment. Kennedy serves as chief prosecuting attorney
for the Hudson Riverkeeper and senior attorney for the Natural
Resources Defense Council, while serving as the president of the
Waterkeeper Alliance. He is also a clinical professor and
supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at
Pace University School of Law in New York.”
“We have the most
anti-environmental White House in history, which is the most
urgent problem facing our country at this time,” said Kennedy.
He cited researched that claimed
that one in four black children in New York, his home state,
develop asthma. “Three people in my family have developed asthma
as well. We don’t know why we are having this epidemic. What we
do know is that it is triggered by contaminents in the air that
are created by 1100 power plants in the Ohio Valley.”
New York water system is now contaminated with high levels of
Mercury, making it unsafe to eat fresh fish in Connecticut and a
few other states. “All of us have Mercury in our bodies. The
Center for Disease Control found that one in twelve Americans are
so saturated with Mercury, their children will loose ten IQ
points,” Kennedy explained.
According to him, these power
plants should have stopped polluting the air and water ten years
ago. Some of them refused to stop and the Clinton administration
was prosecuting those that refused as criminals. They complained
and the Bush administration dropped seventy-five lawsuits and
passed legislation to allow them to continue polluting after he
was given forty-eight billion dollars in campaign contributions
from these companies.
“We are living in a sci-fi
nightmare. We are bringing children into a world where it is
unsafe to breathe. We can’t even go out and catch fish because of
the pollution. These polluters are making billions of dollars.
They made an investment in the president and you and I will be
paying the price,” said Kennedy.
He cited another example of
mistreatment of the environment: “I was flying over the coal
mines in the Appalachians in Kentucky and West Virginia and I know
that if the American people saw what I saw, there would be a
rebellion.” Kennedy explained that miners were using large
machines to cute the top off of the mountains to get the coal from
inside and then dumping the tops into the river. “They are
turning to top of the Appalachian Mountains into a barren
landscape,” he said.
According to Kennedy, this violated
the Clean Water Act and a federal judge ordered the operation to
stop. However, two days later, President Bush changed the
interpretation of the law and gave permission for the mining to
Kennedy stated that this White
House has made 200 major environmental roll backs so far and they
are coming out with one a day. If a fraction of these go through,
environmental laws and regulations will become like those of
Mexico in which they are unknown and rarely enforced.
He said, “Many in Washington say
that it is now time to choose between environmental policy and
economic policy. I say that economic policy is equal to
environmental policy. If we choose only economic prosperity, then
our children are going to have to pay for our joy ride.” Kennedy
believe that the best measure of democracy is to make sure that
the public assets--especially those shared by the community such
as rivers, lakes, and fish—are protected.
Since Earth Day in 1970, the United
States has passed twenty-eight major environmental laws, which
according to Kennedy have become a model for 120 nations across
the globe. “Democracy and the environment are intertwined. The
level of environmental injury directly correlates to the level of
tyranny in a political system,” said Kennedy. He gave many
examples of nations in which little is invested into the
environmental infrastructure and the problems this creates. He
said that this country could become like these due to the reckless
Congress that is currently in power.
“There is no stronger advocate for
a free-market democracy than me,” said Kennedy. However, he feels
that polluters are hurting the free-market because they are
becoming rich by lowering the quality of life for everyone else.
He said the rich are fighting hard for a system of socialization
and the ability to destroy our children’s land and resources.
They must always use a politician to do this because it is always
illegal. Often these large corporations use political clout in
order to waive environmental laws and force the taxpayers to get
the clean-up bill, he added.
Kennedy said he works with these
kind of people all the time and, “they are a bunch of cry babies.
They are always whining when you pull the federal nipple out of
He said, “I am not an
environmentalist, I am a free-marketer. I go out and catch people
who are cheating the free market because when someone cheats the
free market the poorest shoulder the burden. But it is not just
the poor that are hurt, it is everyone.”
When asked by an audience member if
he thinks that there is hope for the environment if a change in
White House administration occurs this November, Kennedy replied,
“Yes if there is a change in the current regime, I think we have
hope. John Kerry is very committed to these issues. We may be
able to restore some things but we cannot undo the permanent
damage. We will never be able to save the Appalachian Mountains.”
In closing of his presentation,
Kennedy made a final note, which created another standing ovation
from the audience: “We did not inherit this Earth from our
ancestors, we borrow it from our children. If we don’t return the
equivalent of what was given to us, they have the right to ask us
some very difficult questions.”
of convicted discuss Innocence Project case
By Tom Cronin
The parents of Julie Rea Harper, a woman who many
believe was wrongfully convicted of killing her 10-year-old son,
answered questions about their daughter’s case during a UIS legal
studies class last month.
The UIS-based Downstate Illinois Innocence Project
filed a petition for executive clemency on behalf of Rea-Harper
last September, seeking a pardon based on actual innocence. UIS
faculty members and legal-studies students working with the
Innocence Project have provided investigative services for
Rea-Harper and other individuals who have been imprisoned despite
strong evidence suggesting their innocence.
Eight students from Dr. Larry Golden’s “Law of
Evidence” class plan to work on Rea-Harper’s case for the
Innocence Project as part of their class. When the class met on
Feb. 16, Jim and Jane Rea – Julie’s parents – answered questions
from students about topics ranging from the ineptness of the
defense attorney in Julie’s original trial to the dishonesty of
Len Kirkpatrick, Julie’s ex-husband.
Kirkpatrick testified in opposition to the
petitioners representing Rea-Harper at her Oct. 24 executive
clemency hearing in Chicago, repeatedly stating that he thought
his ex-wife was guilty of murdering their son, Joel Kirkpatrick.
Joel was stabbed to death on Oct. 13, 1997, while
visiting his mother in Lawrenceville, Ill. A jury convicted
Rea-Harper of first-degree murder on March 4, 2002, and she is
serving a 65-year sentence at Dwight Correctional Center.
Following Rea-Harper’s conviction, Texas serial
killer Tommy Lynn Sells confessed to the murder in an interview
with author Diane Fanning. The confession was published in
Fanning’s book, Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story
of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells.
“We feel like we’ve got part of the story in
Through the Window and the police interview – the main part,”
Jim Rea said. “But we cannot close our minds to any suspect. That
would be unscientific, wouldn’t it? And it would be presumptuous.
So we need to keep following all avenues.”
A group led by the Innocence Project represented
Rea-Harper at the Oct. 24 clemency hearing. During the two weeks
following the hearing, the board discussed the case privately and
made a confidential recommendation to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who
has absolute authority to grant or deny pardons.
Blagojevich still had not made an announcement
concerning action on the pardon when The Journal went to press.
In an interview with The Journal on Feb. 16, Bill
Clutter, Chief Investigator and Co-Director of the Innocence
Project, said, “We’re very confident that [Blagojevich is] going
to rule in favor of Julie’s petition, but it’s a question of when
he’ll do that, whether he’ll wait for the evidentiary hearing, and
whether he’ll wait to have a court decide the credibility issues
of the witnesses.”
Kirkpatrick said at the clemency hearing that Jim
and Jane Rea arrived at the crime scene in separate vehicles and
arrived “quite some time apart.” Witnesses at the scene testified
that Jim Rea was properly dressed with his wet hair combed back,
as if he had just stepped out of the shower, according to
“Think about it,” he said. “You answer the
telephone, and you get a call that something is wrong at your
daughter’s house. Your only grandson is there for an extra day.
You know he’s there. … Do you go separately, one rushing off and
one staying back preparing to go? Hell no. The first thing that
can be put on is put on, and you drive as fast as you can to where
your only grandson is. What was Jim doing?”
Jim Rea said in an interview with the Journal on
Feb. 16 that he wet his hair down and combed it more hastily than
most mornings, and he and his wife arrived on the crime scene a
few minutes after waking up. Jane Rea said that she arrived at the
scene first, but her husband arrived within the next two minutes.
“I was slightly ahead of Jim because, well, I got
out of bed faster and I have always dressed faster,” Jane Rea
said. “And he said, ‘Wait for me,’ and I said, ‘No way, not my
grandson,’ and I took off.”
In his interview with The Journal, Jim Rea said
that Kirkpatrick’s testimony at the clemency hearing was “absolute
pure fabrication.” Kirkpatrick, a “master at using situation and
reconstructing,” told one lie after another at Julie’s original
trial, as well, he said.
Although there are some “good people” in the
American justice system, significant changes need to be made, Jane
Rea said. After studying and working with her husband in parts of
Europe and Central Africa, she said that she was too naïve and
trusting of the American justice system.
“If someone like Julie can be wrongfully convicted
of a crime when she’s a victim and our family can be ignored as
victims, then certainly there are some things that need to be
reconsidered in not only Illinois, obviously, but certainly in
Illinois, about the way crimes are processed and handled,” Jane
Research Advanced at UIS
By Jon Meyer
Scientific research at UIS has been
given a boost. Recently, two graduate students, Tracy DiMezzo and
Timothy Goode, received grants from Sigma Xi to further their
studies on Illinois floodplains.
Sigma Xi is a nonprofit
organization made up of roughly 75,000 scientists and engineers.
Obtaining grants from this society is extremely competitive. The
purpose of this organization is to “motivate young investigators,”
said UIS Professor Michael Lemke.
DiMezzo and Goode were selected
because Sigma Xi identified great potential in their work.
Between the two of them, they received over $1,500.
An Alabama native, Goode received
his grant for the purpose of buying a variety of equipment, such
as fluorescent probes used in DNA hybridizations. This equipment
shall be a great help to Goode, as he is currently studying the
bacteria in the LaGrange floodplain of the Illinois River.
“My goal at the end of my study is
to relate bacterial numbers to a specific function. I would like
to be able to put a small piece of the puzzle together and be able
to say that this specific population of bacteria are converting
this much of a specific nutrient,” said Goode.
DiMezzo’s work also focuses on
bacteria. However, she takes a different approach. Her research
focuses on the transfer of phosphates through the bacteria in
aquatic samples, mainly Lake Springfield.
She is using new techniques which
Lemke referred to as “groundbreaking.” DiMezzo will be meeting
with the American Society for Microbiology in late May to discuss
The research comprised from both of
these students should help advance ecological understanding not
only in the Illinois floodplains, but elsewhere throughout the
“This shows that UIS students are
doing just as well as students from any other institution,” said
Lemke, “I’ve seen a lot of promise from among both graduate as
well as undergraduate students.”
Lemke himself is looking to further
research in the Emiquon floodplain region, an area around 7,000
acres an hour south of Peoria. This region used to be rich in
wildlife. However, part of it was drained in the early 20th
This region was then used for
farmland. The resulting runoff polluted the remaining aquatic
system so that, while many species still exist, the ecological
system is not nearly as diverse as it once was.
Recently, the idea of restoring
this area to its previous condition has been advancing. Lemke’s
studies mainly focus on the nitrogen cycle. In other words, how
fast nitrogen travels throughout the ecologic system.
This project has not gotten too far
yet. Its proponents include UIS, Dixon Mounds and the Nature
Conservancy. If the area is flooded again, students from many
universities, including UIS, will have an easier time studying the
If this takes place, the buildings
currently in the floodplain will be moved to the outskirts. They
will be converted into facilities for scientific research. At
this point, students from many different institutions would be
allowed to use the complex to study the Emiquon floodplains.