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Jim Ryan Sorry, But Should We Forgive Him?

By Prescott Carlson in News on Nov 13, 2009 10:20PM

Former DuPage County prosecutor and current gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan has apologized for dropping the ball in the case of Jeanine Nicarico, a 10-year-old Naperville girl who was raped and killed in 1983. But does a simple "sorry" absolve Ryan enough to make him deserving of the top job in Illinois? After all, Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez narrowly escaped lethal injection when they were wrongly accused of the murder by Ryan, despite the real killer, Brian Dugan, confessing to the crime after being arrested for a similar murder in 1995. Ryan ignored Dugan's confession and instead stayed focused on executing Cruz and Hernandez. The seeming inability to weigh all the facts and admit when you're wrong really is not something this state needs in a leader right now.

Cruz, in a phone interview with the Sun-Times, thinks Ryan's blanket statement isn't enough, and he thinks if Ryan is sincere he should offer to meet with Cruz to discuss "reforming the justice system in Illinois" and maybe even hiring him as an adviser:

“An apology does not undue 12 years of suffering and torture,” Cruz said. “I am taken by the fact he manned up this far, even though he did not come out directly and say, ‘I apologize to you, Rolando Cruz,’ I would like for him to talk to me. This comes 14 years and nine days after my release.”

Rob Warden, director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, was a little more critical of Ryan's apology, telling the Sun-Times:

"This is disingenuous, he’s making this for some political reason. I think he realizes he can’t be elected governor unless he apologizes. He is no more sincere than Dugan. I don’t mean to equate what Ryan did with what Dugan did because Dugan committed three murders, Ryan only committed three attempted murders: Rolando Cruz; Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley. I think he should pull out of the race and turn his campaign fund into a benevolent fund for Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley."

Warden, along with Eric Zorn and other journalists and activists, have extensively reviewed the Nicarico evidence over the years and they all concluded that the DuPage County prosecutor's office "cynically botched the prosecution of Cruz and Hernandez."

But there is one person speaking positively about Ryan's apology -- Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn says he "respects" Ryan for admitting mistakes and that it was the "right thing to do."