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Revealed Secret May Mean Freedom for Inmate

By Prescott Carlson in News on Jan 19, 2008 9:58PM

logan.jpgUnderstatement of the day: being in prison is no fun (at least it doesn’t look like it on Lock-Up). Even less fun is rotting away in a cell for almost 26 years for a crime you didn’t commit. Now imagine that the key to your freedom was sitting the entire time locked in a box in a lawyer’s office, who couldn’t reveal it due to attorney-client privilege. That’s exactly what happened to Alton Logan.

Logan, now age 54, was arrested in 1982 for the murder of a security guard at a south side McDonald’s in a robbery gone wrong. He was identified by witnesses along with Edgar Hope. A few days later, as police were hunting down Andrew and Jackie Wilson for an unrelated murder of two officers, a raid on Andrew’s suspected hiding place turned up a shotgun that tested positive as the gun used in the McDonald’s shooting. But since only two men were involved in the robbery and police conveniently had two men already in custody, charges were never filed against Andrew Wilson in that case. You might remember Wilson -- his allegations of being tortured by Jon Burge and two detectives started the snowball that led to Burge’s firing and a $1 million award by the court.

But the plot twists even further -- public defenders Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, representing Wilson in the police shooting, received word that Hope was claiming Logan had nothing to do with the McDonald’s murder, and was pointing the finger at Wilson. When Coventry and Kunz confronted Wilson he admitted to being the trigger man. Wilson agreed to allow the lawyers to prepare a notarized affidavit of his confession, but it could only be revealed after his death. The affidavit has sat sealed in a metal box in Coventry’s office ever since. Andrew Wilson just died in November of last year -- Coventry and Kunz have now come forward with the new information, and Logan’s attorney is motioning for a new trial.

Logan’s case is an example of how our justice system is for the most part effective, but far from perfect. The evidence to help exonerate someone in prison is just sitting around next to back issues of the Harvard Law Review, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Even if Coventry and Kunz didn’t care about reprimands and losing their license for breaking the attorney-client privilege, because of that privilege the affidavit would be inadmissible, anyway. At least that’s our hope, as the thought of these two men sacrificing Logan just for the sake of their careers is unfathomable. Can any of our law degree toting readers confirm this? [Trib]

Photo of Alton Logan from the Illinois Department of Corrections via the Tribune website