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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:32 am 
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Lawyers knew for 26 years that innocent man was in prison
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A 26-year-old secret could free inmate

By SHARON COHEN, AP National Writer Sat Apr 12, 2:01 PM ET

CHICAGO - For nearly 26 years, the affidavit was sealed in an envelope and stored in a locked box, tucked away with the lawyer's passport and will. Sometimes he stashed the box in his bedroom closet, other times under his bed.

It stayed there — year after year, decade after decade.

Then, about two years ago, Dale Coventry, the box's owner, got a call from his former colleague, W. Jamie Kunz. Both were once public defenders. They hadn't talked in a decade.

"We're both getting on in years," Kunz said. "We ought to do something with that affidavit to make sure it's not wasted in case we both leave this good Earth."

Coventry assured him it was in a safe place. He found it in the fireproof ****l box, but didn't read it. He didn't need to. He was reminded of the case every time he heard that a wronged prisoner had been freed.

In January, Kunz called again. This time, he had news: A man both lawyers had represented long ago in the murder of two police officers, Andrew Wilson, had died in prison.

Kunz asked Coventry to get the affidavit.

"It's in a sealed envelope," Coventry said.

"Open it," Kunz said, impatiently.

And so, Coventry began reading aloud the five-line declaration the lawyers had written more than a quarter-century before:

An innocent man was behind bars. His name was Alton Logan. He did not kill a security guard in a McDonald's restaurant in January 1982.

"In fact," the document said, "another person was responsible."

They knew, because Andrew Wilson told them: He did it.

But that was the catch.

Lawyer-client privilege is not complete; most states allow attorneys to reveal confidences to prevent a death, serious bodily harm or criminal fraud. But this case didn't offer that kind of exception.

So when Andrew Wilson told his lawyers that he, and not Alton Logan, had killed the guard, they felt powerless — aware of information that could free a man they believed to be innocent, but unable to do anything with that knowledge. And for decades, they said nothing.

As they recall, Wilson — who was facing charges in the February 1982 murders of police officers William Fahey and Richard O'Brien — was even a bit gleeful about the McDonald's shooting. To Kunz, he seemed like a child who had been caught doing something naughty.

"I was surprised at how unabashed he was in telling us," he says. "There was no sense of unease or embarrassment. ... He smiled and kind of giggled. He hugged himself, and said, 'Yeah, it was me.'"

Alton Logan already had been charged with the McDonald's shooting that left one guard dead and another injured. Another man, Edgar Hope, also was arrested, and assigned a public defender, Marc Miller.

Miller says he was stunned when his client announced he didn't know Alton Logan and had never seen him before their arrests. According to Miller, Hope was persistent: "You need to tell his attorney he represents an innocent man."

Hope went a step further, Miller says: He told him Andrew Wilson was his right-hand man — "the guy who guards my back" — and urged the lawyer to confirm that with his street friends. He did.

Miller says he eventually did tell Logan's lawyer his client was innocent, but offered no details.

First, though, he approached Kunz, his fellow public defender and former partner.

"You think your life's difficult now?" Miller recalls telling Kunz. "My understanding is that your client Andrew Wilson is the shooter in the McDonald's murder."

Coventry and Kunz brought Wilson to the jail law library and this, they say, was when they confronted him and he made his unapologetic confession. They didn't press for details. "None of us had any doubt," Coventry says.

And, he adds, it wasn't just Wilson's word. Firearms tests, according to court records, linked a shotgun shell found at McDonald's with a weapon that police found at the beauty parlor where Andrew Wilson lived. The slain police officers' guns also were discovered there.

Now the lawyers had two big worries: Another killing might be tied to their client, and "an innocent man had been charged with his murder and was very likely ... to get the death penalty," Kunz says.

But bound by legal ethics, they kept quiet.

Instead, they wrote down what they'd been told. If the situation ever arose where they could help Logan, there would be a record — no one could say they had just made it up. They say they didn't name Wilson, fearing someone would hear about the document and subpoena it. They didn't even make a copy.

But on March 17, 1982, Kunz, Coventry and Miller signed the notarized affidavit: "I have obtained information through privileged sources that a man named Alton Logan ... who was charged with the fatal shooting of Lloyd Wickliffe ... is in fact not responsible for that shooting ... "

Knowing the affidavit had to be secret, Wilson's lawyers looked for ways to help Logan without hurting their client. They consulted with legal scholars, ethics commissions, the bar association.

Kunz says he mentioned the case dozens of times over the years to lawyers, never divulging names but explaining that he knew a guy serving a life sentence for a crime committed by one of his clients.

There's nothing you can do, he was told.

Coventry had another idea. He figured Wilson probably would be executed for the police killings, so he visited him in prison and posed a question: Can I reveal what you told me, the lawyer asked, after your death?

"I managed to say it without being obnoxious," Coventry says. "He wasn't stupid. He understood exactly what I was asking. He knew he was going to get the death penalty and he agreed."

Coventry says he asked Wilson the same question years later — and got the same answer.

But ultimately, Wilson was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

His death penalty was reversed after he claimed Chicago police had electrically shocked, beaten and burned him with a radiator to secure his confession. (Decades later, a special prosecutor's report concluded police had tortured dozens of suspects over two decades.)

Logan's case was working its way through the courts, too. During the first of two trials in which he was convicted, Coventry walked in to hear part of the death penalty phase. "It's pretty creepy watching people deciding if they're going to kill an innocent man," he says.

The lawyers had a plan if it came to that: They would appeal to the governor to stop the execution. But with a life sentence, they remained silent.

Still, there were whispers. When Logan changed lawyers before his second trial, Miller says the new lawyer approached him. He had heard that Miller knew something more.

Please, he asked, can you help?

Miller says he told him he could do nothing for him. But he says he repeated the words he had uttered to Logan's first lawyer, more than a decade earlier:

"You represent an innocent man."

___

In prison, Alton Logan heard the news: First, Andrew Wilson had died. Second, there was an affidavit in his case.

"I said finally, somebody has come (forward) and told the truth," Logan says. "I've been saying this for the past 26 years: It WASN'T me."

In January, the two lawyers, with a judge's permission, revealed their secret in court.

Two months later, Marc Miller testified about his client's declaration of Logan's innocence.

But an affidavit and sworn testimony do not guarantee freedom — or prove innocence.

And Alton Logan knows that. After spending almost half his 54 years as an inmate, this slight man with a fringe of gray beard, stooped shoulders and weary eyes seems resigned to the reality that his fate is beyond his control.

"I have to accept whatever comes down," he says, sitting in a visitor's room at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet.

He insists he's not angry with Edgar Hope — the man who first said he was innocent — or even Andrew Wilson. He says he once approached Wilson in prison and asked him to "come clean. Tell the truth." Wilson just smiled and kept walking.

Nor is Logan angry with the lawyers who kept the secret. But he wonders if there wasn't some way they could have done more.

"What I can't understand is you know the truth, you held the truth and you know the consequences of that not coming forward?" he says of the lawyers. "Is (a) job more important than an individual's life?"

The lawyers say it was about their client — Wilson — not about their jobs, and they maintain that the prosecutors and police are at fault.

Kunz says he knows some people might find his actions outrageous. His obligation, though, was to Andrew Wilson.

"If I had ratted him out ... then I could feel guilty, then I could not live with myself," he says. "I'm anguished and always have been over the sad injustice of Alton Logan's conviction. Should I do the right thing by Alton Logan and put my client's neck in the noose or not? It's clear where my responsibility lies and my responsibility lies with my client."

Rest of the article can be read here - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080412/...6_year_silence
I understand their oath is to their client and all, but how could they sleep at night knowing some poor sucker was rotting away in prison for a crime he didn't commit? They can justify it all they like, but there was a helluva lot more they could have did to get the wrongly convicted exonerated without fingering their client. Hell, you're protecting a admitted murderer, multiple time murderer over an innocent person for crying out loud - where is the justice in that. They ruined a mans life so they could collect a paycheck - soulless bastards.


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 Post subject: Duty is not always easy.
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Dear Folks,

Not surprisingly, I have a different take on this situation than Aaahmed46.

Aaahmed46 wrote: "I understand their oath is to their client and all, but how could they sleep at night knowing some poor sucker was rotting away in prison for a crime he didn't commit? They can justify it all they like, but there was a helluva lot more they could have did to get the wrongly convicted exonerated without fingering their client. Hell, you're protecting a admitted murderer, multiple time murderer over an innocent person for crying out loud - where is the justice in that. They ruined a mans life so they could collect a paycheck - soulless bastards."

You say you understand the lawyers' "oath" was to their client, but you clearly do not understand. A lawyer may not reveal a privileged communication except to prevent a crime from occuring. Oddly enough, if the original jury had given a death sentence to the innocent man, they could have come forward to stop his death. That didn't happen. If you undertake to represent a defendant in a criminal matter, you can't ignore your obligations to your client because they are difficult or distasteful. The integrity of the rights afforded by the constitution are at stake. If an attorney can turn in his own client, then protections for the accused are illusory. You say there was "a helluva lot more they could have did" to protect a man who wasn't their client, at the expense of their client. Please tell us what they could have done within the confines of their obligations?

There are situations in many professions where difficult decisions need to be made. In the military, bomber pilots and artillery units are ordered to attack coordinates that will assuredly result in civilian casualties. Presumably, the soldiers that carry out those orders have to wrestle with their own conscience. I'm sure it is of little comfort to the families of children killed that the servicemen were doing their sworn duty. It must, however, make a huge difference to the soldiers involved. Only a monster could kill defenseless civilians and feel no regret unless some greater principles were at stake.

The attorneys involved were far from "soulless bastards." From the beginning they took steps to try to correct a horrible injustice within the confines of their ethical obligations. In many ways it would have been easier for them to "rat" out their client. They chose the hard road because under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. If you or a loved one ever needs an attorney in a criminal matter, you would do well to be represented by someone like these gentlemen.

Sincerely,
Norm Abrahamson


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 Post subject: I understand. . . but
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:51 pm 
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a truly moral individual would have opted to lose his license to practice law, rather than to allow an innocent person to rot in prison.

I can understand the reason for this rule, but when it comes time to sleep at night, all it would take to "do the right thing" is giving up his current choice of making a buck. In my estimation, a no brainer of a choice.

I doubt if any court would throw the lawyer in jail for making this "moral" decision.

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 Post subject: The Moral Thing
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 1:52 pm 
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Sensei Mattson:

The attorneys involved DID do the moral thing. Their moral, as well as legal obligation, was to protect their client and keep his confidence. The easy, and immoral, thing to do would have been to betray that confidence. I suppose that the attorneys could have acted as "unnamed informants" and given information to the police or prosecution. They may never have been found out. An innocent man would have been freed from prison. And their client would have been executed. I don't believe the attorneys involved were motivated by fear of losing their licenses. I actually saw a 60 Minutes piece where they were interviewed. I also believe that it is unlikely they would have been disbarred. Perhaps only censured. It would also have given their client a defense on appeal; the ineffective assistance of counsel.

I believe that in this instance, the attorneys took the hard road and did the moral and ethical thing.

Sincerely,
Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:52 pm 
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Norm

That is why we have a "legal" system instead of a "justice" system. :(

When people start to argue that the "ethcial" thing is to allow a utter miscarriage of justice.....the "ethical" thing is to allow an innocent man to rot in jail for nearly 30 years...then something is badly out of wack.

They could have stipulated that the "death penality" be taken off the table in return for their information.

Guy was already on trial for a double murder---at any point after his conviction which carried life without parole......they could have come foreward and saved Alton Logan with no real actual cost their client....whom again at that point was already doing life without parole.

The really "hard road" was taken by the innocent man...in a very real way he was the guy that paid for their highly nuanced exercise in "ethics."

Not them, not their client, but some poor innocent man.

If innocent people can be sent to jail for 26 years...when officers of the court have direct evidence that they are in fact innocent of the crime for which they have been charged....then I'd argue what "protections" do any of us really have?

Alton Logan depended on his "Consitutional protections" and he found them as "illusionary" as the example you provide....only the result in his case was not a hypothetcial thought problem.......it was 26 years in jail for a murder he did not commit.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:08 pm 
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CXT:

You'll get no argument from me that "justice" is not always the end result in any court case, civil or criminal. The system put in place is intended to allow justice to prevail more often than not. You make some fine points, but on one, I will disagree. You stated that because their client was already doing life without parole, "they could have come foreward and saved Alton Logan with no real actual cost their client." That is not true. The cost to their client could have been his being charged with the murder that Alton Logan was convicted of committing. He could have received the death penalty. Even if it didn't add to his sentence, a murder conviction is certainly adverse to a client's interest. Remember, these lawyers were not engaged to achieve justice, they were hired to protect their client. The police and prosecutors are the folks with the primary duty to protect the public and see justice is done. Alton Logan was railroaded, but not by the attorneys who represented somebody else. The Constitutional protections we have been talking about, are protections from the government. The Constitution does not shield people from having their rights denied or infringed by bad luck or bad people. The man who committed the murder for which Logan was convicted could have spoken up at any time. He did not because he was a career criminal who saw Logan's conviction as his good fortune. His attorneys did not have the luxury of speaking up. That they had the foresight to execute an affidavit 26 years ago and convince their client to allow them to come forward after his death, shows that they do care about justice and they do care about Mr. Logan. They had a difficult burden, and they carried it for 26 years. When interviewed, they did not liken their burden to that borne by Mr. Logan. There is no question that he had the heaviest burden to bear. Unfortunately for Mr. Logan, there were greater principles at stake.

Sincerely,
Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:12 pm 
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Norm

Prior to the guy getting life without parole on his double murder trail maybe....but after he was tried, convicted, sentenced and was doing his time...there would have been little risk to him...the more so since they could have easily made it a condition of providing the information.

They cut deals for such information all the time with criminals....no death penality for information on another crime.
Guilty pleas for murders commited in exchange for no death penality.
Don't see much difference.

I'm not sure that one can cast the wrongful imprisoment for nearly half ones life as the lesser of "greater principles."
I'm not sure that there are "greater principles" than the protection of the innocent when it comes to a legal system.

These guys were officers of the Court, they had IMO a duty to insure that a man they knew to be innocent was not wrongfully imprisoned and wrongfully punished for a crime they knew he did not commit.

A "fair trial" and protection of the accused would seem to me to be by far the "greater principles" of which you speak---neither of which is possible when critical information is withheld from the defense.

I uderstand the argument Norm, and to an extent I even agree with it......but this crosses the line IMO.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:46 pm 
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Dear CXT:

It’s true that deals are cut all the time, but not for cases that are already closed. As far the District Attorney’s Office was concerned, Alton Logan’s murder case was already solved and the perpetrator in prison. There was no motivation for the authorities to trade information so a prisoner could be freed. You state that Attorneys Kunz and Coventry could have ensured that the death penalty would be taken off the table, but you have no way to know if that was a real possibility. The duty of the attorneys involved was to their client, Andrew Wilson. Andrew Wilson was by all evidence a reprehensible human being. That fact did not give his attorneys the right to betray his confidence.

Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 states in relevant part: “Confidentiality of Information (a) Except when required under Rule 1.6(b) or permitted under Rule 1.6(c), a lawyer shall not, during or after termination of the professional relationship with the client, use or reveal a confidence or secret of the client known to the lawyer unless the client consents after disclosure. “ There are a few specific instances where there are exceptions, but they are not relevant to the Logan situation. An attorney should understand this obligation and only accept a client if he or she is willing to abide by this obligation.

I must repeat, Attorneys Kunz and Coventry never represented Mr. Logan. They had no duty to Mr. Logan. As officers of the court, their obligations were to represent their clients in accordance with the rules of professional conduct; not to pursue what they felt would be justice.

Sincerely,
Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:26 pm 
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Norm

Does not appear to me like they even investigated the possiblity......if they did it certainly does not say so...and if it were me I'd be makeing sure that it did.
Does it say anywhere that they even tried to make such a deal?
Discussed it with a judge?
Approached the BAR?
Spoke to the DA in hypothetical terms about the possibilty of having a innocent man behind bars---one that might be able to sue the State for millions--or his estate might do so?

Trying and failing is one thing...failing to try quite something else.

I see no reason to buy the argument that after he was already tried, convicted, sentenced and doing life without parole that he was in any danger of getting the death penality--esp if they cut a deal...which they most certainly could have done.

(when was the last time they put anyone to death in Illinois BTW?)

Again, I understand the argument......but again, the freedom of a man they knew to be innocent and had written proof his innocence was in their hands.

And they decided to sit on it.

"not to pursue what they felt would be justice."

But isn't that exactly that they did?

They decided that the "just" thing to do was sweep critical evidence under the rug..evidence and information that cost a innocent man 26 years of his life.

As officers of the Court.....I think their duty might just be a little broader than the overly narrow, ridged interpretation they no doubt will assert at this point......or people will assert on their behalf. ;)

Critical information was kept from Altons defense----information that would have freed him, information that cost the man 26 years of his life.

I don't see this as upholding some kind of duty...I see it as an abrogation of it.

If they had reason to belive that the man was going to walk and commit another crime---if they had reason to belive that say their client was going to kidnap Alton---then its generally accpeted that they would have a duty inform the police.
Why should they be allowed to skate on knowingly allowing a crime, the false emprisonment of Alton to take place?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:07 am 
While it is a travisty

Quote:
a truly moral individual would have opted to lose his license to practice law, rather than to allow an innocent person to rot in prison.


I`m under the impression that any breach of there clients rights would of made such evidence also unadmissable , is this legally correct ?, If so the Lawyers had little choice , rock and a hard place .

but it still stinks .


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:32 pm 
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Stryke

Not an expert of course, but a such a breach would probabaly not have been admissable against their client....but might well have been enough to free Alton.

Don't know how risky such a move might have been.

I just can't see a judge allowing an accused mans own legal aid to provide information that could help the DA convict him of addtl crimes.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:25 pm 
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I think there's a bigger picture to be considered here. If clients can't trust their lawyers that will cause other problems down the line.

There's also the simple fact that if there wasn't attorney-client privilege than the real killer would never have said anything at all and the innocent man wouldn't have any chance of a reprieve whatsoever. Nobody would know because it would've been kept secret. At least this way there's a chance for truth to come out eventually.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:59 pm 
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Val

Several things---the first of which "privilage" does not seem from where I sit to have been in danger.

-Highly unlikely that any judge would have allowed it to be admissable in his trial.

-Deals that take the death penality off table in exchange for information are made all the time...it would be interesting to find out how many times such deals were cut by defendents in trials in that area..esp in murder cases.

-Once he had already been tried, convicted, sentenced and was already doing life without parole, there seems to have been little danger for someone to talk to a judge about written evidence that could free an innocent man.

My question is a bit more fundamental---the Defense is still considered Officers of the Court-and as such they had specific responsibity.....indeed probably a litteral duty, to hand over evidence if they have a honest belief that their client is planning on commiting a future crime.

In this case such a crime was being commited--
false imprisonment of a man that they and their client knew to be innocent.
In that sense they aided and abetted the commission of another crime.

This is not a couple of citizens seeing a crime go down and not wanting to get involved---these are Officers of the Court that cost an innocent man 26 years of his life.

If it happend the other way around and the DA essentially hide evidence--people would be foaming at the mouth demanding justice---people would be getting fired and probabaly dis-barred--and most certainly huge lawsuits would be getting filed against everyone connected with the case.

Alton was an innocent man whose life was taken away--heck he could have easily gotten the death penality himself---he was denied a fair trial because the "other guys" team hid eveidence from him.

IMO the protection of the innocent and the right to a fair trial are what is most important in a legal system---if you can't count on innocent people being protected and getting a fair trial---then pretty much everything else is academic
There is no "bigger picture" than the right to a fair trial and the protection of the innocent...pretty much everything else is designed to assure those 2 ends.

Alton received neither

What happend to him was forseeable and preventable..and IMO as Officers of the Court--his defense team had a duty to try and prevent this crime from taking place.

If nothing else this should spur changes in the legal code to prevent it from happing again.

I shudder to think about how many times this has happend before.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:35 pm 
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cxt wrote:
Val
Several things---the first of which "privilage" does not seem from where I sit to have been in danger.


Just answer this: Why would Wilson tell them the truth if he knew they would be allowed to reveal it? What motivation would he have for being honest? If we change the law so that lawyers can share information in cases like these, then people like Wilson simply won't admit it. That's the bigger picture.

Quote:
-Once he had already been tried, convicted, sentenced and was already doing life without parole, there seems to have been little danger for someone to talk to a judge about written evidence that could free an innocent man.


He could have been tried for the crime if it came out. There's every reason to believe he would be, and whether you think they'd cut a deal or not there's no assurance of that.

Quote:
to hand over evidence if they have a honest belief that their client is planning on commiting a future crime.


False imprisonment isn't the crime here. That's something else. Wilson wasn't committing a crime by withholding evidence. In fact, the 5th amendment says he can't be forced to testify against himself.

Quote:
Alton was an innocent man whose life was taken away--heck he could have easily gotten the death penality himself---he was denied a fair trial because the "other guys" team hid eveidence from him.
...
What happend to him was forseeable and preventable..and IMO as Officers of the Court--his defense team had a duty to try and prevent this crime from taking place.


If I understand what you're saying, you've gotten this incident a bit wrong. The Alton Logan's Lawyers did not know that Wilson was the guilty man. Only Wilson's lawyers knew that. Wilson's lawyers were not involved with Logan's case. Wilson was being tried for a different crime when he admitted the crime that Logan was imprisoned for.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:14 pm 
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Val

But that is specualtion...the important part here is what was known and whom knew it and when.
People admit to crimes they commit all the time...its how deals get made--such as taking the death penality off the table...the whole concept of the plea bargin is based on just such a admission and deals.

He could not have been "tried" if his defense made it part of the deal..see above.

Nope, "false imprisonment is a crime.
And I'm not saying Wilson commited it...I'd argue that his lawyers essentially aided and abetted its commison.
If they belived Wilson himself was planning to commit a crime they would presumably have a duty to report it, despite being his lawyers.
Equally, IMO they should have reported that another crime--false imprisonment--of which they had personal information, was also being commited.

Nope, not what I meant at all---what I'm suggesting is that because of the legal gamesmanship played by Wilson lawyers Alton didn't get a fair trial.
The statments of Wilsons lawyers clearly show they were quite aware of Altons case and they had first hand personal knowloge of his innocence as well as documents that supported that fact...information withheld/hidden from Altons defense.

I'm saying that IMO as Officers of the Court they had some degree of responsibilty to prevent another crime---false imprisonment--from being commited against Alton.
As such Alton's false imprisonment was forseeable and preventable by Officers of the Court.

It does not read to me like they tried much beyond handwringing and telling each other there was nothing they could do........maybe the did and it just didn't make the article.
But since we talking about a innocent man being denied a fair trial and a innocent man not being protected an innocent man loseing 26 years--essentially half his life..I would have expected just a bit more to have been done/tried/attempted etc by Officers of the Court.

Like I said before the entire legal system is designed to protect innocent people unjustly accused (its why you have everything from Miranda to having restrictions of not being allowed to introduce prior bad acts of defendents etc) and to provide for a fair trial for the defendents-----Alton IMO got neither.

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