by Whet Moser
John Kass, reporting on a state house bill that would grant parole hearings to inmates sentenced to life without parole when they were teens, wrote something that piqued my curiosity:
"Another death-penalty opponent is lawyer Jeanne Bishop, a Cook County public defender who worked with her sister, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, and others on the issue. But they believe that life without parole means what it says for those who kill. They have a Web site, Illinoisvictims.org.
"Their sister, Nancy Langert, and her husband, Richard, were murdered in their home in 1990 by David Biro of Winnetka. He was 16 at the time. He stole a gun from his lawyer, broke into the Langert home and shot Richard in the head. The three shots Nancy took to the abdomen killed her unborn child. Nancy lived for about 15 minutes."
The Reader's John Conroy wrote a long piece about the David Biro incident in 1992 called "The Irish Connection." Why was Conroy the perfect writer for the case? First, the investigation into the murders was a spectacularly screwed-up wild-goose chase in which the Winnetka police department and the FBI managed to convince themselves that the culprit was the Irish Republican Army, which, second, Conroy knows quite a bit about; he published a 1987 book called Belfast Diary.
Bishop, a Yale-educated lawyer and human-rights activist, had a long-standing interest in issues of justice and torture in Northern Ireland, and through an elaborate and absurd series of events that Conroy details, the FBI came to believe that the IRA had decided she was disloyal and thus secretly went to Winnetka to kill her. Or her sister. As Conroy points out, anyone with the least knowledge of the IRA would immediately see it as a farce, but it led to a painful, months-long investigation.
The perpetrator, it turned out, was a young sociopath from a well-off local family who idolized Leopold and Loeb and wanted to be a serial killer--David Biro. He lived two blocks from the Winnetka police station.
Anyway, read the whole thing. It's an amazing story. Michael Miner wrote a few related follow-up stories, about an ill-fated play inspired by/copied from the incident, and on Bishop's objections to the death penalty. Bishop's lawyerly (and more convincing) argument against the bill Kass describes is here (scroll down).