If I had been in the shoes of these two lawyers who kept the secret of Alton Logan's innocence, I believe I would have come forward with the truth, and risked being disbarred. But then, I'm not a lawyer. I think 90% of lawyers have lost their sense of right and wrong, which is why our justice system so frequently helps the guilty and punishes the innocent.
26-Year Secret Kept Innocent Man In Prison
May 25, 2008
60 Minutes (CBS)
Lawyers Keep 26-Year Secret
...This is a story about an innocent man who languished in prison for 26 years while two attorneys who knew he was innocent stayed silent...
Alton Logan was convicted of killing a security guard at a McDonald's in Chicago in 1982. Police arrested him after a tip and got three eyewitnesses to identify him. Logan, his mother and brother all testified he was at home asleep when the murder occurred. But a jury found him guilty of first degree murder...
Alton Logan's story cuts to the core of America's justice system.
Simon met Alton Logan in prison, where he's spent almost half of his life.
Asked if he still counts the months and days, Logan told Simon, "There’s no need to count the months and the days. Just count the years."
Logan said that during the first five or six years he was "consumed" by anger. "Then I come to the realization that 'Why be angry over something you can't control?'"
Logan, who maintains he didn't commit the murder, thought they were "crazy" when he was arrested for the crime.
Attorneys Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz knew Logan had good reason to think that, because they knew he was innocent. And they knew that because their client, Andrew Wilson, who they were defending for killing two policemen, confessed to them that he had also killed the security guard at McDonald's - the crime Logan was charged with.
"We got information that Wilson was the guy and not Alton Logan. So we went over to the jail immediately almost and said, 'Is that true? Was that you?' And he said, 'Yep it was me,'" Kunz recalled.
"He just about hugged himself and smiled. I mean he was kind of gleeful about it...
"How did you interpret that response?" Simon asked.
"That it was true and that he was tickled pink," Kunz said.
"He was pleased that the wrong guy had been charged...
"Well, ...we have to maintain client confidentiality, just as a priest would or a doctor would...
Asked if they contemplated doing something about it, Coventry told Simon, "We wrote out an affidavit. We made an affidavit that we had gotten information through privileged sources, that Alton Logan was not in fact guilty of killing the officer, that in fact somebody else did it..."
"But the minute he was not sentenced to death, the minute he was sentenced to life in prison, you decided to do nothing?" Simon asked.
"Yes," Kunz said. "I can't explain it. I don't know why that made the difference but I know it did."
"There is no difference between life in prison and a death penalty. None whatsoever. Both are a sentence of death," Logan told Simon...
(CBS) "What did you do to see if there might be some loophole to get everyone out of this fix?" Simon asked the attorneys.
"I researched the ethics of attorney-client privilege as much as I could. I contacted people who are involved in making those determinations. I know Jamie did the same thing," Coventry said.
"I could not figure out a way, and still cannot figure out a way, how we could have done anything to help Alton Logan that would not have put Andrew Wilson in jeopardy of another capital case," Kunz added.
"Couldn’t you have leaked it to somebody? To a reporter, to an administrator, to the governor, to somebody?" Simon asked.
"The only thing we could have leaked is that Andrew Wilson confessed to us. And how could we leak that to anybody without putting him in jeopardy?" Kunz replied. "It may cause us to lose some sleep. But, but I lose more sleep if I put Andrew Wilson’s neck in the in the noose."
"He was guilty and Logan was not. So, yes his head should be in the noose. And Logan should go free. It's perfectly obvious to somebody who isn’t a lawyer," Simon pointed out. "Andrew Wilson was guilty, was he not?"
"Yes. And that's up to the system to decide. It's not up to me as his lawyer to decide that he was guilty and so he should be punished and Logan should go free," Kunz said.
"Do you think you might have been disbarred for doing that, for violating attorney-client privilege?" Simon asked.
"I don't think I considered that as much as I considered my responsibility to my client. I was very concerned to protect him," Coventry explained.
"But here is a case where two men, you two were caught up in this bind. And chose to let a man rot away in jail," Simon remarked.
"In terms of my conscience, my conscience is that I did the right thing. Do I feel bad about Logan? Absolutely I feel bad about Logan," Coventry admitted.
The attorneys say they were so tormented over Logan's imprisonment that they convinced Wilson to let them reveal that Wilson was the real killer after Wilson's death. Late last year, Wilson died. The two attorneys finally took their affidavit out of the lockbox, and they called Logan's lawyer, pubic defender Harold Winston.
Winston had already been trying to get Logan a new trial. He'd found two eyewitnesses who swore Logan was not the killer. Now, with Kunz and Coventry's affidavit, he thinks Logan will finally go free.
[Blogger's note: From what I've seen and read over the years, prosecutors hate to admit they've prosecuted an innocent person. More often than not, they prefer to let the innocent rot in jail.]
"...Everything that was dear to me is gone," Logan, who missed his mother's funeral, told Simon.
His brothers Eugene and Tony told 60 Minutes they've shared Alton's pain, and they always knew that he was no killer. "My brother ain’t got the nature to do nothin' like that in his soul. He ain’t gonna take nobody else's life. We weren't raised like that," Tony said.
"Your brother is 54 now. Can he start again at the age of 54?" Simon asked...
But Alton Logan is still behind bars. "They are quick to convict but they are slow to correct they mistakes," he said...
This is what Alton Logan meant when he said they are slow to correct mistakes:
Marine Wife Murder Case Still Active
(San Diego, CA) -- A judge ruled he still has the authority to completely dismiss the case of Cynthia Sommer who was found guilty of killing her husband and spent a few years in jail, but later had the charges dismissed "without Prejudice". Judge John Einhorn says he may dismiss the case "with prejudice" which means the case could not be re filed, "without" means the prosecution could re file murder charges against Sommers who was alleged to have poisoned her husband in 2002.