Monday, November 22, 2010

Attacking the messenger

Evidence mounting that a man convicted of murder might be innocent? Here's an idea -- go after the people responsible for uncovering that evidence.

That's exactly what the Cook County State Attorney's Office is doing in the case of Anthony McKinney, who was convicted of the murder of Donald Lundahl back in 1978. The full force of the state is being brought down on the Medill Innocence Project for a audio-taped interview of another suspect, Anthony Drake, in 2004.

Illinois law makes it illegal for a person to use an "eavesdropping device" to secretly record a conversation absent a court order. A letter written by then-State Attorney General Dan Ryan in 1996, however, seems to say it's okay if the recording is made by a private citizen who believes evidence of a crime may be obtained by recording a conversation.

The students involved recorded a conversation with Mr. Drake in a Belleville (IL) park. The student spoke to Mr. Drake in a secluded area while an investigator and a teaching assistant listened in on the conversation in which Mr. Drake stated that Mr. McKinney was not present during the shooting.

Justice is not a zero-sum game. The ethical duty of a prosecutor is to see that justice is done - whether that result in a conviction, a dismissal or an acquittal. The prosecutor acts in the name of the state. The state, through the citizenry, has an interest in seeing that the laws are enforced, that those who commit crimes are punished and that those who are innocent are set free.

In this instance, the state is betraying the people's trust by trying to cover its ass instead of seeing that justice is done.

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