In 1982, Andrew Wilson confessed to his lawyers, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, that he had robbed a McDonald’s on Chicago’s south side and killed security guard Lloyd Wycliffe with a shotgun. Bound by the confidentiality of attorney-client communications, the lawyers were unable to tell anyone about Wilson’s confession.
They remained silent even as another man, 54-year old Alton Logan, was arrested for the murder. He was tried, convicted, and sent to jail for life.
Although attorney-client privilege prevented the lawyers from revealing their client’s confession, they did manage to get Wilson’s permission to reveal the truth after his death.
He finally died this last November, and on January 11, Kunz and Coventry got a judges’s ruling that they could go public with his confession. After 25 years in jail, Alton Logan may be getting a new trial.
(The full story is told in a terrific piece of news writing by Tribune reporter Maurice Possley. It’s a more complicated and more interesting story than my short summary.)
I first heard about this in a post by Chicago’s own Second City Cop entitled “Kill All the Lawyers.” He has this to say:
What is truly amazing to us is it seems these two scumbag lawyers look like they want to be praised for keeping an innocent man behind bars for 26 years because they wrote a notarized affidavit in 1982 and kept it in a locked box since then.
We’ll say this – Doctor/Client privilege can be pierced in extreme circumstances. Under certain conditions, the doctor is obliged by law to report certain things. Husband/Wife privilege can be broken, most times voluntarily by one party or the other. You can’t tell us that Lawyer/Client privilege is the only thing impregnable in all circumstances? The law needs to be reformed if so.
He’s certainly got it right that this was an awful situation, but it’s hard to see a way around this without gutting attorney-client privilege. Every accused person needs counsel. As one of SCC‘s commenters points out, “I can tell you have never had a case put on you by [Internal Affairs Division].”
SCC goes on to ask,
So who does Alton Logan sue now? Kunz and Coventry? Wilson’s “estate”? Illinois?
It wasn’t Kunz and Coventry who put Alton Logan in jail for two and a half decades. It was the Chicago Police who caught the wrong man and the Cook County State’s Attorney who prosecuted him.
Wilson’s lawyers did what the ethics of their profession requires of them. The assigned role of criminal defense lawyers is to represent their client’s liberty interest at all costs. As ugly as the situation was, they were doing their job.
In yet another odd twist to this story, Andrew Wilson and his brother were arrested for murdering two police officers, and they later accused Police Commander Jon Burge of torturing them during questioning. Burge was investigated for this and other allegations of torture, and he was eventually fired.
However, too much time had passed since the alleged incidents of torture for Burge to be charged. The scandal remains controversial to this day and has arisen as an issue in the current race for Cook County State’s Attorney.
Wilson had received some accolades for his role in bringing the Burge scandal to light, but now we know that through it all he was keeping a secret that was ruining Alton Logan’s life one day at a time.
Update: I just noticed that Capital Defense Weekly has linked to this article. I guess that would be the worst case scenario. A life sentence is only second-worst case.