Monday, 7 March 2011

Justice was not only blind; it was stupid also (Part I)

This article is the first of a series of articles I am putting in my blog that will tell my readers of many cases to follow about injustices committed on innocent accused persons who were later acquitted of the crimes they were charged with. I will describe in detail the misconduct of prosecutors and the misconduct of the police that conducted the investigations.

With little national fanfare, a most extraordinary trial took place in the DuPage County courthouse in the State of Illinois. Though it had none of the star appeal of the O.J. Simpson case, the trial of three former prosecutors and four current sheriff's deputies accused of framing Rolando Cruz for the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico, it ultimately became one of the most significant criminal prosecutions of the century.

Both in scope and nature, the case against the prosecutors and detectives is virtually unparalleled in the history of American jurisprudence. While police and prosecutors occasionally have been indicted for misconduct in the past, no other case has alleged a conspiracy to send a man to Death Row and none has alleged that prosecutors perpetuated their deceit for so long.

The charges—conspiring to obstruct justice and perjury—strike at the heart of the American system of justice. If convicted, the three former prosecutors, Patrick King, Robert Kilander and Thomas Knight, would be the first in the nation to be found guilty of a felony for knowingly using false evidence to send an innocent man to Death Row. The fact that they even were prosecuted was a legal benchmark.

This isn’t the first time that prosecutors have turned out to be rotten apples in the criminal court system in the United States. A Tribune examination of homicide cases over the previous 36 years (prior to 1995) showed that 381 homicide convictions have been reversed because prosecutors knowingly used false evidence or withheld evidence suggesting the defendant's innocence.

Strangely enough, not a single prosecutor in those cases was ever brought to trial for the misconduct. Only two of those cases even resulted in charges being filed and, in both instances, the indictments were dismissed before trial.

Despite assertions for more than a decade by defense lawyers for Cruz and his co-defendants, Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley, that detectives and prosecutors had engaged in misconduct, it was not until Cruz was acquitted in 1995 that a special prosecutor was appointed, in the face of political and public pressure to investigate what went wrong in that criminal prosecutorial wrongdoing and police investigative farce.

That investigation culminated in a 47-count indictment against King, Kilander, Knight and four DuPage Sheriff's officers—Lt. James Montesano, Lt. Robert Winkler and detectives Dennis Kurzawa and Thomas Vosburgh. The seven defendants pleaded that they were not guilty.

During appearances before the DuPage grand jury on the comments made by their lawyers in court, the defendants maintained that the detectives did not commit perjury or falsify evidence and that the prosecutors never intentionally presented any false evidence.

But Defendant Knight said in his written statement that the prosecution of him and his co-defendants is an "injustice being done to people who were simply doing their job honestly as well as they could." When you read what follows, you will wonder why that man didn’t regurgitate immediately after he made that statement.

The case against Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley was the result of a horrendous crime; the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. The prosecution against them was influenced by a number of factors, including politics, guile, fear, ambition, public pressure to solve the crime, and a desire to convict on the part of the police and prosecutors. Knight, in his written response, went so far as to say that Cruz, Buckley and Hernandez were "a menace to the public." It later turned out that it was Knight that was the menace acting against the public good.

Thousands of pages of testimony from the DuPage grand jury and court documents painted a picture of a prosecution that was constructed with lies and half-truths, buttressed with distorted evidence and, according to the indictment, stitched together with criminal misconduct on their collective part.

From almost the beginning, there were hints that something was terribly wrong. Two DuPage sheriff's investigators quit their jobs in disgust over their belief that justice was being compromised. Witnesses testified they were intimidated by investigators. Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of concealing evidence. An assistant Illinois attorney general; appalled by the conduct of prosecutors and convinced of Cruz's innocence, resigned rather than argue in court Cruz's conviction and death sentence should be upheld.

There were other signs as well. The prosecutors insisted they still had the right defendants even after another man, in an attempt to avoid the death penalty, claimed responsibility and provided dozens of accurate details to show he had committed the crime and done so entirely on his own.

Former DuPage County Prosecutors Thomas Knight, Patrick King and Robert Kilander, and Sheriff's Detectives Dennis Kurzawa, Thomas Vosburgh, Lt. James Montesano and Lt. Robert Winkler, were charged with 47 criminal counts, including perjury, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, commit official misconduct and frame up a defendant.

The core of the indictment charges against the seven defendants focused on two key aspects of the case: the first being that on the eve of the first trial of Cruz and two co-defendants, Kurzawa, a veteran of more than 25 years in law enforcement, and Vosburgh, a former jail guard who became a DuPage detective in 1980, concocted a lie, the lie being that Cruz had told him and the other officer of having a vision of the crime that included details only the killer would know. That lie, according to the indictment, was endorsed and perpetuated by the prosecutors.

In addition, prosecutors King and Kilander were accused of concealing notes that showed there was an admitted killer named Brian Dugan, a man who had already pleaded guilty to two other murders, including the killing of a 7-year-old girl and an admission that he also killed 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico.

The prosecution of Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley steamrolled over them with the help of jailhouse informants (who are always suspect because of their motives) and the introduction of the ‘vision statement’, which strangely enough wasn’t even recorded in any police report.

The case against the DuPage 7 was based largely on circumstantial evidence and Cruz's testimony that he never made a vision statement. Winning a conviction required proving a difficult proposition: That men who swore to uphold the law, broke it.

Presiding in the pristine setting of the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton was Judge William Kelly. The trial of the seven defendants was expected to last four to six weeks.

At the prosecution table was William Kunkle, a veteran attorney who prosecuted serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Across the courtroom were the seven defendants—all experienced law enforcement officials who supposedly had devoted much of their lives to investigating and prosecuting criminals who were defended by a cadre of lawyers, some of whom, such as Terry Ekl, Terence Gillespie, Brian Telander and Ernie DiBenedetto, began their careers as assistant Cook County state's attorneys and worked with and for Kunkle.

In the gallery, alongside family members of the defendants, was the Nicaricos parents who had watched the tragedy of their daughter's murder evolve into a prosecution of men they admired and respected and, in the case of Knight and King, consider their friends.

At the center of it all was Cruz, a onetime street punk who spent 12 years in prison, a decade of it on Death Row. He was expected to testify that what he told the officers and prosecutors during the initial days of the investigation—words that ultimately would become the basis for a case against him—words that he supposedly made up in hopes of cashing in on a $10,000 reward. Obviously, this stupid act is what brought him the grief he had to endure for so many years.

The background of the case against Cruz is as follows: On February 25, 1983, Jeanine Nicarico stayed home from school with a cold. Sometime in the afternoon, the front door was violently kicked in—leaving a clearly visible boot print—and she was abducted.

A platoon of investigators descended, sealing the house to all but evidence technicians who began dusting for fingerprints and taking photographs.

Thomas Knight, then chief of the criminal division of the DuPage County state's attorney's office, told the grand jury that the following day he went to the home to meet with Jeanine's parents, who were struggling to comprehend what had happened.

The discovery of Jeanine's battered body two days later, on February 27, 1983, in a wooded area off the Illinois Prairie Path about six miles from the family home, brought pressure from the public, the politicians and the Nicarico family.

In a county where only 10 murders would be committed in all of 1983, the killing and rape of a 10-year-old girl became a "heater" case, in which the political stakes are high.

A task force of local police, DuPage County sheriff's police and the FBI began sifting evidence and tracking leads. The violent nature of the girl's death—her skull had been crushed with a blunt instrument and she had been sexually assaulted—as well as the random nature of her abduction, spurred the growing urgency to solve the crime.

There was no quick or easy solution. In fact, DuPage authorities would not return an indictment against Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley for another 13 months. Nearly 15 years later, the core of the indictment against the DuPage 7 is what detectives Kurzawa and Vosburgh said Cruz told them about the Nicarico murder on May 9, 1983, during a night at the DuPage sheriff's offices.

The detectives have testified previously at Cruz’s trial that a distraught Cruz recounted a vision or dream that he had had about the Nicarico murder. He allegedly told them that Jeanine's nose had been broken, that she had been hit in the head so hard that a depression was left in the ground where her body was found, that she had been sodomized and that she had been left in a farmer's field. The police said those were details that only someone involved with the crime would know. Cruz denied making those statements.

The task facing Kunkle and his co-prosecutors, Michael Bartosz and Daniel Collins, at the trial of the seven defendants boiled down to two significant issues.

The first was to convince the jury that Cruz's alleged vision statement never occurred and that despite his criminal past, Cruz was more believable than the law enforcement officials.

The second, and perhaps more difficult hurdle was to persuade jurors that King, Kilander and Knight knew that the vision statement was a lie, but went ahead with the case against Cruz anyway.

The jurors were faced with the following questions:

If Cruz's alleged vision statement was so important, why was it never documented in a police report? Why were prosecutors so hazy about when they learned of it? And if it really did occur on May 9, 1983, why was there never a mention of it in any of the thousands of pages of transcripts from the grand jury that indicted Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley?

On the other hand, jurors had to wrestle with another question raised by the defense representing the seven defendants.

Why would veteran law enforcement officers jeopardize their careers, their reputations and their freedom by lying?

"There is an enormous burden to prove prosecutors did something bad," says Gerald Houlihan, a Miami lawyer who, in 1980, took two prosecutors to trial in Rochester, N.Y. "It's damn hard. There is a tremendous presumption in favor of prosecutors. Jurors tend to disbelieve anybody who says anything bad about a prosecutor."

As a federal prosecutor, Houlihan accused the two New York prosecutors of conspiring with sheriff's officials to hide evidence and persuade witnesses to lie against organized crime figures. Even though two detectives admitted fabricating evidence, after 11 weeks of trial, prosecutor Raymond Cornelius, who by then was a judge, was acquitted. Prosecutor Patrick Brophy was convicted of a single misdemeanor count for eliciting perjury and suppressing evidence and was fined a mere $500.

Houlihan made an interesting observation. "It is one thing to prosecute bad guys for doing bad things. It is totally different to prosecute good guys for doing bad things."

A Tribune search nevertheless found six prosecutors in the Twentieth Century, including Brophy and Cornelius, who had faced criminal charges alleging the sort of misconduct at the heart of the DuPage 7 indictments—concealing evidence or using false evidence. Of those six, two were convicted of misdemeanors and fined $500 each, two were acquitted and charges against the other two were dropped before trial.

One of the acquitted was San Diego prosecutor L. Forrest Price, who forged evidence at a 1976 double murder trial, changing the time and place on a taxi trip ticket so that the entries were consistent with a taxi driver's testimony that implicated the defendant, according to court records. Price was charged with a felony, but even though he admitted altering the evidence—saying he buckled under the pressure of a crushing workload—a jury acquitted him in 1978.

The California Supreme Court suspended Price's law license for two years, with three justices dissenting, urging disbarment. As for the defendant prosecuted by Price, his murder convictions were not thrown out, but his sentence of five years to life was reduced to one year.

Cruz was initially embraced by some DuPage County detectives as a source of rumors about the murder and in one instance supplied information for a search warrant of a home where he said he heard Jeanine was assaulted and killed. Cruz reveled in the attention as the detectives; after he claimed that he was shot at because he was helping the police, moved him into a motel and paid for his meals.

At the same time, other detectives discounted Cruz immediately as a smart-mouthed punk who told more lies than truths.

In the weeks following the discovery of Jeanine's body, Hernandez, a glue-sniffing high school dropout from Aurora with a theft conviction and a penchant for telling tall tales, told detectives Sam and Kurzawa that three people committed the crime, including Buckley and someone named Ricky.

While the detectives never found anybody named Ricky they picked up Buckley, who turned over a pair of his boots for comparison with the print on the front door. But Buckley denied any involvement in the crime.

Eager to capitalize on the reward, Hernandez and Cruz babbled incessantly to the detectives and the grand jury investigating Jeanine's murder. Detectives, equally eager to solve the case, later would testify in court that that's when they began to focus on them instead.

Detective Sam believed the shift to Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley was wrong at the time, he told the DuPage 7 grand jury. Former Naperville police chief James Teal told that same grand jury that Sam came to him and asserted: "These mutts didn't do it." Teal testified that at the time, he agreed.

Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley were indicted on March 8, 1984. By December, Sam had become so disgusted with the prosecution and so tired of arguing that the real killer was still at large that he resigned.

As the trial approached, lead prosecutor Thomas Knight summoned John Gorajczyk, a shoe print examiner in the sheriff's police crime lab, to discuss his examination of Buckley's boots, according to the grand jury transcripts.

Earlier, Gorajczyk had compared Buckley's boots to the print on the Nicarico door and concluded they didn't match. He did not write any report about his findings. Gorajczyk told the DuPage grand jury that Knight told him to keep his mouth shut about his conclusion and not to tell anyone that there was no written report.

Knight then sent the print and boots to the Illinois State Police crime lab, where an examiner said he could not conclusively say if the boot matched or not. So, Knight sent the boots and prints to an expert in Kansas, who also said he could reach no conclusion.

Eventually, Knight settled on Louise Robbins, a shoe expert who not only said Buckley's boots matched the door print, but that she could look at a shoe print and tell the height and race of the wearer. Such claims, as well as Robbins' reputation as a shoe print expert, were debunked, but not until years later.

The FBI lab later conducted its own tests and concluded that Buckley's boot did not match the print on the door. While Buckley sweated it out in jail waiting for his trial, his prosecutors waited several months after receiving the report before they dropped the charges against Buckley on March 5, 1987.

On November 13, 1985, Brian Dugan, (who had pleaded guilty to two other rape-murders, including one where the victim was seven years old, and was facing his sentencing hearing) authorized his attorney to tell prosecutors that he kidnapped, raped and killed Jeanine Nicarico. Dugan offered to confess to the murder if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Dugan's attorney turned his notes over to DuPage prosecutors Patrick King and Robert Kilander, but the pair illegally withheld this exculpatory evidence from the attorneys defending Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley.

The case took perhaps its strangest twist in late 1984. On December 20, 1984—more than nine months after the indictment of Cruz, Buckley and Hernandez. the Wheaton law firm of Callum, Anderson and Deitsch held its annual Christmas party, attracting a variety of judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials, including King, Kurzawa and Vosburgh.

King later told the grand jury that at that party, Vosburgh expressed his concern that because neither he nor Kurzawa had been contacted to testify even though the trial, scheduled for January 7, 1985, was just a few days away. Vosburgh told King that he and Kurzawa were particularly eager to testify about the vision statement they had taken from Cruz 18 months earlier.

The detectives explained that after their conversation with Cruz, they had telephoned their supervisor, Lt. Montesano, who advised them to call Knight. Vosburgh and Kurzawa said Knight told them to stop the interview because he would question Cruz about it when the grand jury convened in a few days. He also directed them not to write a report about the interview that they told King they had conducted.

King told the DuPage 7 grand jury that he was stunned by the revelation; that he had known nothing about it. Indeed, Cruz had never been asked about it during his grand jury appearances. Vosburgh and Kurzawa had not been called to the grand jury to relate it, either.

Knight told the DuPage 7 grand jury that when King related the party conversation with Vosburgh and Kurzawa "it was news to me." Knight said he recalled taking a phone call back in May 1983 from Kurzawa, but that at the time did not equate Cruz's alleged statements with admissions that would suggest he was the killer.

Yet, when the trial opened, the prosecution case relied on Kurzawa's and Vosburgh's testimony about the vision statement. From the beginning, defense attorneys didn't believe it was true since there was no written report, neither officer had even been called before the grand jury to describe it, and Cruz was never even asked about it during several grand jury appearances.

The defense lawyers tried, but failed to keep Kurzawa and Vosburgh off the witness stand. In the end, Cruz and Hernandez were convicted. The jury deadlocked on Buckley and a mistrial was declared. Weeks later, Cruz and Hernandez were sentenced to death.

In 1988, the convictions were set aside and Cruz and Hernandez granted new trials because the Illinois Supreme Court ruled they should have been tried separately.

By the time Cruz went on trial for a second time in Rockford in January 1990, Knight and King had left the DuPage state's attorney's office and were replaced by Robert Kilander and Richard Stock. With Vosburgh and Kurzawa giving evidence again on the stand, Cruz was once more convicted and sentenced to death.

Hernandez went on trial weeks later in Downstate Bloomington, where an incident there involving shoe print evidence provided further impetus to the contention by defense lawyers that the prosecutors were not playing by the rules.

Paul Sahs, a crime lab technician for the DuPage County Sheriff's office, told the DuPage 7 grand jury that when he arrived at the Bloomington courthouse to testify, he pulled Kilander aside to pass on startling information the information that the prints didn’t match any of the shoes the accused wore.

The prosecution case rested, in part, on a theory that two shoe prints in the dirt below a window of the Nicarico home were circumstantial proof that burglars casing the home saw Jeanine home alone and decided to break in. Kilander had relied on that theory just months earlier in obtaining the conviction of Cruz.

Less than an hour before Sahs was to take the witness stand, he told Kilander that he had discovered that the prints were made by a woman's shoes. He suggested that Kilander would not want to call him to the stand, according to Sahs' testimony
before the DuPage 7 grand jury.

Sahs said Nike officials had told him that the prints were made by a woman's style shoe, size 5 1/2 or 6 which had to be too small for either Hernandez or Cruz to have worn those shoes that made those prints.

The information was extremely important to defense lawyers because it undermined the prosecution's theory of the case. Legal rules require prosecutors to give defense lawyers any information that suggests a client's innocence. Such rules also apply in Canada.

But Kilander chose to ignore the new information, and put Sahs on the stand without asking him about shoe size or the sex of the wearer, according to court records. I am amazed that Sahs on his own didn’t explain to the jury that he didn’t think the shoes fitted either of the accused.

By the beginning of 1992 Cruz had been retried, convicted and sentenced to death for a second time, and Alex Hernandez had been retried, convicted and sentenced to 80 years in his third trial. Meanwhile DNA tests had specifically linked Dugan to the crime; had specifically excluded Hernandez, and were inconclusive in regard to Cruz.

The second convictions of Hernandez and Cruz also were reversed; this time on a number of evidentiary grounds, including the trial judge's refusal to allow jurors to hear of Brian Dugan's other similar crimes. Cruz was to have a third trial.

Not once in that time frame were the prosecutors singled out for improper acts. The case against Cruz began to unravel in the fall of 1995 when he went on trial for the third time in seeming defiance of logic, common sense and the evidence.

For 12 years; longer than Jeanine had lived, DuPage prosecutors had tried to convict Cruz for the crime, a killing as brutal as any could be. The evidence and theory of the evidence had shifted over time: First it was Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley who had abducted the girl and murdered her. Later, after Dugan's statement, the sands shifted even more: Dugan didn't do it; then Dugan did it with Cruz and Hernandez. Jailhouse informants had come forward to say Cruz incriminated himself, then the informants recanted.

Lawrence Marshall, a Northwestern University law school professor, and a team of defense lawyers led by veteran former prosecutor Tom Breen, attacked the prosecution's case. Private investigator John Eireman tracked down each prosecution witness whom the prosecution claimed would implicate Cruz. One by one, the witnesses said their testimony had been twisted or was outright wrong.

By then, the prosecution case was on shaky ground when DuPage County Circuit Judge Ronald Mehling called the bench trial to order. The case against the three men collapsed before the defense even began presenting their evidence.

The turning point came when Lt. Montesano took the stand to testify about the vision statement. He admitted that he had lied, though perhaps unintentionally, about being at home on the night Kurzawa and Vosburgh said they had called him to seek advice about Cruz's alleged vision statement.

That admission, combined with defense suggestions that Kurzawa and Vosburgh were wrong about the date when such a statement could have been made, suggested to the judge that they had lied as well.

With the ‘vision statement’ being one of the most damning pieces of evidence against Cruz, suddenly it became highly suspect, not just to the defense lawyers, who had questioned the credibility of the claim from the outset, but also to the public.

In a moment of high courtroom drama, Judge Mehling held aloft a picture of Jeanine Nicarico and harshly criticized sheriff's police officers.

After Mehling issued his verdict, DuPage Circuit Chief Judge Edward Kowal took the rare step of appointing William Kunkle as special prosecutor to investigate the sheriff's police. There was no directive to look at the prosecutors, who had not been singled out in Mehling's decision.

Initially, Kunkle's appointment was viewed by skeptics as evidence that the investigation into the wrongdoings of the police officers was doomed to be a whitewash. They pointed to Kunkle's representation, as a defense lawyer, of Jon Burge, a Chicago police lieutenant who was fired after an inquiry found systemic physical abuse of murder suspects by detectives under his command.

Kunkle pointed out that as a prosecutor he had actually approved indictments of police officers for wrongdoing. He lied. The Tribune study of cases reversed in Illinois for prosecutorial misconduct in the past two decades failed to turn up a single case involving Kunkle.

As Kunkle began summoning DuPage law enforcement officials before the grand jury, he expanded the investigation and ultimately, obtained an indictment not only against the four sheriffs' investigators, but also Knight, King and Kilander.

In the weeks leading up to their trial, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles that demonstrated how widespread prosecutorial abuse is in the US. In its article “The verdict: Dishonor” the newspaper reported, “Since a 1963 US Supreme Court ruling designed to curb misconduct by prosecutors, at least 381 defendants nationally have had a homicide conviction thrown out because prosecutors concealed evidence suggesting innocence or presented evidence they knew to be false. Of all the ways that prosecutors can cheat, those two are considered the worst by the courts. And that number represents only a fraction of how often such cheating occurs.

The US Supreme Court has declared such misconduct by prosecutors to be so reprehensible that it warrants criminal charges and disbarment. But not one of those prosecutors was convicted of a crime. Not one was barred from practicing law. Instead, many saw their careers advance, becoming judges or district attorneys. One became a Congressman.

Meanwhile Cruz's case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Assistant Illinois Attorney General Mary Brigid Kenney publicly denounced the DuPage prosecutor's conduct and resigned rather than defend Cruz's conviction and death penalty before the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the prosecutors filed a 150-page brief with the state Supreme Court insisting that Brian Dugan's claims were not credible.

In December of 1992 the Illinois Supreme Court upheld Cruz's conviction and death sentence. Five months later, under new leadership, the high court reversed itself and granted a rehearing of Cruz's appeal. In July 1994 they granted his appeal and ordered a new trial. By June 1995 the state Supreme Court had also upheld an appellate decision for a retrial in Hernandez's case.

Unfazed, the DuPage prosecutors began Cruz's third trial in October 1995. However, Cruz was quickly acquitted after the prosecutors' story began to unravel. Sheriff's Lieutenant James Montesano admitted on the witness stand that he was actually on vacation on the date he supposedly discussed an incriminating statement made by Cruz with another officer. Additional DNA tests excluded Cruz and confirmed Dugan's guilt in the case.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the third Cruz prosecution, public sentiment that the prosecutors had been conspiring to frame Cruz became so pervasive that former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney William Kunkle was appointed to investigate the DuPage sheriffs and the prosecutor's office.

In December, the prosecutors announced they would not prosecute Alex Hernandez for a fourth time.

In June 1996 a grand jury was convened to hear evidence of possible crimes committed by the DuPage prosecutors and sheriffs. Despite an internal sheriff's department investigation that found no evidence of false testimony by detectives the grand jury returned a 47-count indictment against three DuPage prosecutors and four sheriff's officers.

A major issue in the case against the DuPage 7 was the fact or fiction of an alleged “dream statement” made by Cruz on May 9, 1983. Prosecutors claimed Cruz had described a dream to sheriff's officers about the kidnapping and disclosed elements that had not been made public and could only be known by the real killer. However, this alleged statement was never reported in the sheriffs' record of the discussion written up a day later. In fact it was never documented, and it only emerged as a critical part of the case immediately before the 1985 trial.

During the trial against the DuPage prosecutors and sheriff's officers, Special Prosecutor William Kunkle gave half a dozen reasons why jurors should conclude that the reports of a dream statement was concocted by the authorities to frame Cruz.

Kunkle cited the testimony of Officer Kurzawa, who admitted he had never been told not to write a police report about information like the “dream statement” before May 9, 1983, or afterwards. Kurzawa and another officer who allegedly heard the statement testified they got in touch with Prosecutor Knight on the evening of May 9, who told them not to include the statement in a police report because he was going to use it in front of the grand jury a couple of days later. But during the grand jury questioning, prosecutor Knight never mentioned Cruz's alleged dream statement.

The defense attorneys argued that the prosecutors and police had made some foolish mistakes, but these were not intentional criminal acts or a criminal conspiracy. They also denounced Cruz as a compulsive liar who may very well have been involved in the crime or known who was involved. “To say they don't have a smoking gun is a gross understatement of this case,'' defense attorney Terry Ekl said of Kunkle. “My client [former prosecutor Thomas Knight] is a smart guy. If he wanted to frame Rolando Cruz, he would be dead right now."

Despite a compelling case establishing the frame up of Rolando Cruz, the jury did not convict the defendants. This, no doubt, has something to do with the weight of a law-and-order atmosphere that has been cultivated by right-wing politicians for some 20 years. From this viewpoint, no methods employed by prosecutors or police can be considered too extreme because these forces are supposedly the “thin line” that defends society from uncivilized criminals. In such an atmosphere concern for the democratic rights of those in the clutches of the police and prosecutors is denounced as coddling criminals.

The DuPage County, Illinois prosecutor and four sheriff's officers were acquitted by a county judge and jury June 4 of charges that they conspired to frame up and convict Rolando Cruz for murder, rape and kidnapping.

If they had been convicted, it would have marked the first time in American history that a prosecutor was convicted of felony charges for intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence or knowingly using false evidence to incriminate a defendant. However, as has happened in every previous case where prosecutors have been brought to trial on these charges, the so-called DuPage 7 were not convicted.

After the jury in the wealthy DuPage County suburb gave their verdict, they left the courtroom, but many of them returned to join the celebration of the previously indicted lawmen. A number of reporters commented that they have never seen such a demonstration. Some jurors even continued the celebration with the prosecutors and police at a steak lounge until early the next morning.

The defendants were also aided by the favorable rulings of trial judge William Kelly, who dropped charges against prosecutors King and Kilander and then acquitted Officer Winkler in a bench trial that coincided with the jury trial.

Rolando Cruz reacted to the acquittal four days later at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago where his lawyers were filing papers to re-start his civil suit that had been put on hold during the criminal proceedings. "It is not over, and they know it is not over by a long shot," Cruz told a gathering of reporters.

The four sheriff's police officers went back to work for the DuPage County Sheriff's office. Knight went into private practice as a lawyer.

The public outcry from the Cruz case resulted in Governor George Ryan declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois, asserting that the system was fraught with error. Cruz was fully pardoned by Governor George Ryan in 2002.

Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States once said,"We generally condone a great deal of misconduct when we think it serves the ultimate ends of justice."

Many players in the system,judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors know some of that kinds of injustices that happens, but nonetheless they tend to turn a blind eye. There's a feeling that that is how it works, that it's legitimate to bend the truth sometimes when you are doing it with the greater good in mind.

It is unfortunate indeed that so many innocent people have been executed because they didn’t get a fair and honest trial. It is the responsibility of prosecutors to ensure that everyone is given a fair trial. To conduct trials in any other way turns the prosecutor into a persecutor.

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