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Thursday, June 16, 2011 01:40 pm

Letters to the Editor 6/16/11

Innocence Project and Charity Funds

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Julie Rea Harper, shown here May 16 at the Defenders of the Innocent program in Springfield, was released from prison five years ago after having been wrongfully convicted of killing her 10-year-old son. After her first conviction was reversed on a techni
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE

MAKE PROSECUTORS PAY

You have had a series of articles on the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at UIS [see “Defenders of the innocent,” May 26, by Patrick Yeagle]. This last year I audited the course at UIS conducted by Larry Golden in which Bill Clutter appeared a number of times. It was eye opening to me to see the extremes to which the prosecutors, in certain cases such as the one in Paris, Ill., and elsewhere, can go to get a conviction. Bill Clutter and Michael Metnick, a Springfield attorney, spent hours of time to obtain the release of two innocent individuals, one who had been sentenced to death and another serving a life sentence after being falsely convicted on perjured testimony.

Our legal system is based upon an adversarial relationship, the theory being that the truth will come out if rules are followed. It is a pretty good system but sometimes the desire to win the case supersedes the goal to achieve justice. We are lucky here in Sangamon County because the state’s attorney’s and U.S. attorney’s office are acutely aware of the need to achieve justice rather than to “win.” Unfortunately, that is not always true in other areas.

There have been somewhere between 200 and 250 wrongful convictions set aside in recent years due to DNA testing. Many of these cases had been the result of the prosecutor’s failure to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense, so that a conviction could be obtained. This is contrary to a long line of cases that hold that exculpatory evidence obtained by the prosecution must be revealed to the defendant’s attorneys.

For each person who has been wrongfully convicted and subsequently shown to be innocent, the guilty person is still out there to commit additional crimes. No one can criticize an office for making a careless mistake, but when there is deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence, that, under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, goes unpunished. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a prosecutor has absolute immunity from civil liability. When the case is willful not to disclose exculpatory evidence (such as DNA testing results) the prosecutor should not get a free ride.

There needs to be a change in the law to make conduct that is willful in withholding exculpatory evidence subject to civil liability, otherwise there is no down side to an unethical prosecutor putting innocent people in jail.

Edward J. Cunningham
Attorney
Springfield



STEALING CHARITY FUNDS

Leave it to corrupt Illinois [see “State taps charity funds to pay its bills,” by Rachel Wells, June 9]. Two questions come to mind. If the money was collected in years past, why hasn’t it been used for the stated purpose already? Also, do the people who donated get a refund since their money is not going to the charity that they donated to? If I ran a “charity” and diverted the money to my own use, Illinois would waste no time in prosecuting me and helping themselves to a tidy fine. They have broken the law. Could I get away with going into a bank and “sweeping” some money? In this case, “sweeping” is just another name for stealing.

from illinoistimes.com


POSITIVE OUTLOOK

We should care more about sexual health [see “HIV: Too many positives,” by Jolonda Young, June 9]. Living with HIV/AIDS is not that easy. But around 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS. As I know, many good-looking people, including celebrities, also find love and support on STDdatings.com. I wish you luck finding someone who understands you.

from illinoistimes.com 

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