Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

March 23, 2003

Dennis Williams,

46, a former death row inmate and one of four men whose exoneration became a rallying point for Illinois death penalty opponents, died Thursday at his home in Flossmoor, Ill. A ruling on the cause of death is pending.

Mr. Williams spent 18 years in prison for the 1978 deaths of a couple before a Northwestern University professor and his class helped win his release and those of three other inmates in 1996 after learning a state witness had lied. Then-Gov. George Ryan mentioned their case when he commuted the sentences of every inmate on death row in January.

The four men were in their 20s when they were wrongfully convicted of the gang rape and double murder of Carol Schmal and Lawrence Lionberg. Mr. Williams and one of the men went to death row; the other two were sentenced to life in prison. Three others were later convicted of killing the couple.

Laura Rothenberg,

22, who recorded an audio diary and wrote a book about her battle with cystic fibrosis, died Thursday in New York. The cause was chronic rejection of a lung transplant, complicated by infection.

Ms. Rothenberg recorded My So-Called Lungs to chronicle her daily life with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes mucus to build up in the organs. The diary was broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered in August last year.

In her recordings, Ms. Rothenberg described her decision to undergo a lung transplant in July 2001 and the ailments that followed, including lymphoma, diabetes and a broken hip. Her memoir, Breathing for a Living, will be published in July.

Vasilios Choulos,

75, a trial lawyer who rose to national prominence defending counterculture heroes, died Monday in San Francisco. With his partner of 18 years, Melvin Belli, Mr. Choulos took part in several high-profile cases during the 1960s.

He was a member of the defense team for Jack Ruby, the Texas nightclub owner who shot and killed President Kennedy's accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, in 1963. He also represented several notable figures of that era, including Lenny Bruce, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Timothy Leary.

Mr. Choulos was perhaps best known for organizing a brazen scheme to rescue an accused drug dealer, Joel David Kaplan, from a Mexican prison in 1971. The so-called "10-Second Jailbreak" became the basis for the 1975 Charles Bronson film Breakout.

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