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Downstate group honors three for work on Rolando Cruz case

Those who stand up for wrongfully convicted people are getting some recognition these days from the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project.

On Monday evening, the organization gave its “profiles in courage” awards to Ed Cisowski and Mary Hayes, honoring them for their roles in the Rolando Cruz case.

Cisowski was a State Police lieutenant (later a commander) whose investigation led him to conclude a different man, the now-convicted Brian Dugan, was response for the crime for which Cruz was sent to Death Row – the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico, 10, of Naperville.

Hayes resigned her position as an assistant Illinois attorney general, saying she would not help to execute an innocent man.

Former DuPage sheriff’s investigator John Sam also was an honoree, but did not attend the event.

Cruz was emcee at the event at the executive mansion in Springfield, and was overcome with emotion as he tried to introduce the honorees.

It was the third time the innocence project has handed out the annual awards. The group also honored lawyers who offered their services pro bono to Downstate defendants.

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