New Voices Emerge in Heidelberg's Lengthiest Post-Conviction Hearing

Feb 8, 2017

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Echoes of 1970 replayed in a Peoria County courtroom Wed.

A nearly five-hour long hearing in the post-conviction case of Cleve Heidelberg ended with a two-hour long video testimony.

On the tape, Matt Clark looks into the camera and says in early morning hours following the murder, his brother James proudly told him that he was responsible for shooting the police officer.

“He grabbed me by the shoulders and said, I got that [expletive]. I got that [expletive] for Mark,” Clark said.

Their older brother, Mark Clark, led the Blank Panther Party in Peoria and was killed, along with Fred Hampton, during a police raid in Chicago in 1969.

On screen, the sickly 77-year-old Matt Clark says he’s undergoing chemo for bone marrow cancer. Now that his brother James is dead, Matt Clark says he feels compelled to come forward.

"I think my brother would want it,” Clark said.

The video deposition from Matt Clark is one of two new testimonies being used by Heidelberg’s defense team. The full hearing is scheduled to take place at the end of the month.

Heidelberg’s family and legal defense are hopeful he will walk free. Regardless of the outcome of this trial, one family will continue to agonize over the loss of a loved one.

Sgt. Raymond Espinoza

Phyllis Espinoza listened tentatively to the proceedings, as she has for every one of Heidelberg’s hearings and parole appearances. She’s the daughter of Sgt. Raymond Espinoza, the officer who was shot and killed, nearly 50 years ago.

“I had no idea growing up that this was what my life was going to be like,” Espinoza said. “Having to relive this once every three years when he comes up for parole, when he comes up for trial, now this. It’s just hard.”

Espinoza says it’s painful to see her father’s name be remembered solely for the circumstances of his death. Sgt. Espinoza was in law enforcement for 14 years and served in the Navy for 20 years before that. His daughter will keep showing up to Heidelberg’s hearings because she says, “that’s the Espinoza way.”