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Court Overturns Murder Convictions in Job-Related Death

January 19, 1990

CHICAGO (AP) _ A state appellate court today overturned the murder convictions of three former executives in the work-related death of an employee exposed to cyanide on the job.

The 1985 Cook County Circuit Court verdict against executives of Elk Grove Village-based Film Recovery Systems Inc. was believed to be the first in which corporate officials were convicted of murder charges in a job-related death.

The appellate court ruled the convictions on charges of murder and on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct were ″irreconcileab le″ because of the different mental states required for such findings, said defense attorney Elliot Samuels.

″The court has opened the door for a new prosecution,″ Samuels said.

Stefan Golab, 61, a Polish immigrant who worked at the plant where cyanide was used to recover silver from used X-ray film, collapsed at work after complaining of dizziness and nausea in 1983. His death was attributed to cyanide poisoning from inhaling fumes on the job.

The appellate court sent the case back to the lower court, where Cook County State’s Attorney Cecil Partee may pursue it if he decides to, said spokesman Ed McManus. Partee was out of the office and not immediately available for comment, McManus said.

The state’s attorney’s office under the direction of Richard M. Daley, now mayor of Chicago, successfully prosecuted the case in 1985.

The appeals court overturned convictions on charges of murder, reckless conduct and involuntary manlaughter against the defunct company’s former president, Steven J. O’Neil, plant manager Charles Kirschbaum and foreman Daniel Rodriquez.

The men were found guilty at a bench trial before Circuit Judge Ronald J.P. Banks.

Elliot, who represent Kirschbaum and Rodriquez in the appeal, said that a murder conviction required a determination of a deliberate state of mind, while a finding of reckless conduct required a finding ″somewhere between negligence and indifference ... conscious disregard of serious risk.″

″We argued that (contradiction) at the trial level and at the appeal,″ he said.

Five people originally were charged. Gerald Pett, a vice president and manager was acquitted.

A fifth defendant, Utah businessman and former Film Recovery vice president Michael McKay, has been the subject of three unsuccessful extradition requests by Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson. Utah officials said they questioned whether he could receive a fair trial.

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