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April 13, 2008

Is a job more important than an individual's life? [krakatoa]

Why people suck, part infinity plus one.

I'd say 'Why lawyers suck', but I see this kind of CYA behavior from all walks of life, albeit never this egregious a case of self-serving rationalizations in making the broader immoral choice, regardless of the situational ethics.

Consider this:

Suppose you had information that could free an innocent person convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In revealing that information however, the guilty party might get the death penalty, you could lose your career. What would you do?

I say without hesitation that I would offer up the information, and any who might do otherwise is beneath contempt and undeserving of a place in polite society.

These two lawyers, Dale Coventry and W. Jamie Kunz, are two such examples of the lowest form of humanity, content to sit idly by while an innocent man served 26 years in prison.

Details below the break.


In January, Kunz called again. This time, he had news: A man both lawyers had represented long ago in the murder of two police officers, Andrew Wilson, had died in prison.

Kunz asked Coventry to get the affidavit.

"It's in a sealed envelope," Coventry said.

"Open it," Kunz said, impatiently.

And so, Coventry began reading aloud the five-line declaration the lawyers had written more than a quarter-century before:

An innocent man was behind bars. His name was Alton Logan. He did not kill a security guard in a McDonald's restaurant in January 1982.

"In fact," the document said, "another person was responsible."

They knew, because Andrew Wilson told them: He did it.

But that was the catch.

Lawyer-client privilege is not complete; most states allow attorneys to reveal confidences to prevent a death, serious bodily harm or criminal fraud. But this case didn't offer that kind of exception.

So when Andrew Wilson told his lawyers that he, and not Alton Logan, had killed the guard, they felt powerless — aware of information that could free a man they believed to be innocent, but unable to do anything with that knowledge. And for decades, they said nothing...

Now the lawyers had two big worries: Another killing might be tied to their client, and "an innocent man had been charged with his murder and was very likely ... to get the death penalty," Kunz says.

But bound by legal ethics, they kept quiet.

Instead, they wrote down what they'd been told. If the situation ever arose where when they could help Logan, there would be a record — no one could say they had just made it up. They say they didn't name Wilson, fearing someone would hear about the document and subpoena it. They didn't even make a copy...

Knowing the affidavit had to be secret, Wilson's lawyers looked for ways to help Logan without hurting their client. They consulted with legal scholars, ethics commissions, the bar association.

Kunz says he mentioned the case dozens of times over the years to lawyers, never divulging names but explaining that he knew a guy serving a life sentence for a crime committed by one of his clients.

There's nothing you can do, he was told. [emphasis mine]

Nothing you could do. Really? I could think of one glaring thing you could have done, that would have required no little sacrifice... but sacrifice isn't required by the letter of the law, and really, why should you have to suffer for someone else's bad luck? Ass.

Logan reportedly is not angry at the lawyers but...

...he wonders if there wasn't some way they could have done more.

"What I can't understand is you know the truth, you held the truth and you know the consequences of that not coming forward?" he says of the lawyers. "Is (a) job more important than an individual's life?" [emphasis mine]

Hold onto your hats, readers, because this is the part that's really going to get you burning.

Kunz indicates it wasn't about the job. Really? Either he is lying, or he is a whole level of inhumanity below what I previously would have believed a lawyer capable of.

What was it about?

Kunz says he knows some people might find his actions outrageous. His obligation, though, was to Andrew Wilson.

"If I had ratted him out ... then I could feel guilty, then I could not live with myself," he says. "I'm anguished and always have been over the sad injustice of Alton Logan's conviction. Should I do the right thing by Alton Logan and put my client's neck in the noose or not? It's clear where my responsibility lies and my responsibility lies with my client..."

And who do these scum of the earth contend are the real bad guys in all this?

... they maintain that the prosecutors and police are at fault.

I. did. not. see. that. coming.

The wheels of justice move especially slow for a convicted man with evidence of his innocence. Logan is not free yet, and seems resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison. Small wonder, given that he could not count on the most basic of compassion from two representatives of the justice system, lawyers Dale Coventry and W. Jamie Kunz.

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posted by xgenghisx at 02:02 AM

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