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Stalled Justice

One can only continue to shake one's head at certain aspects of the so-called American justice system. The prosecutors ambitions as against the injustice of a person, seemingly innocent, who has spent 31 years in jail.

Read this editorial from The Nation, in full. The beginning of the piece sets the scene:

"In Texas and Illinois, recent controversies have exposed our broken criminal justice system. Mounting evidence indicates that Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered the wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 and has subsequently tried to cover up the details of the case, recently dismissing three experts on the state's Forensic Science Commission forty-eight hours before they were set to examine the evidence. Willingham's case has rightly generated national headlines, and another case of prosecutorial overreach is unfolding in Illinois.

On the evening of September 15, 1978, a white security guard named Donald Lundahl was murdered in a robbery gone awry in a racially fraught southern suburb of Chicago. Police fingered Anthony McKinney, an 18-year-old African-American with no criminal record, as the killer. The prosecution sought death by lethal injection; the judge sentenced McKinney to life in prison.

McKinney has long maintained his innocence. Based on newly uncovered evidence, there's strong reason to believe that he has spent thirty-one years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

When it comes to capital punishment, Illinois differs from Texas in one important respect: in 2000 the Land of Lincoln's Republican governor, George Ryan, issued a moratorium on the death penalty, and in 2003 he granted clemency to all death-row inmates. Ryan announced his decision at Northwestern University, citing the work of Northwestern journalism professor David Protess and his students at the Medill School of Journalism, who had uncovered evidence that helped free five wrongly convicted men from death row.

In 2003 Protess and his students began examining McKinney's case. Over three years of painstaking reporting, they unearthed startling new evidence: the prosecution's two main witnesses, 15 and 18 at the time of the trial, recanted their testimony during interviews with the students, claiming they were beaten by the police and intimidated into doctoring the facts; McKinney alleged that he was beaten with a pipe by a detective with a history of police brutality before signing a sham confession; TV logs proved that both witnesses were watching a boxing match at the time of the shooting and thus could not have seen the murder; an ex-gang member, Anthony Drake, confessed on tape to being at the murder scene, named two perpetrators and said McKinney was not involved; current and former residents of the neighborhood confirmed they heard Drake and two other suspects confess to Lundahl's murder."

From here onwards things went downhill......and read it here.

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