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Alvarez complains about “60 Minutes” story

Friday, Dec 14, 2012

* Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is miffed about a story aired by “60 Minutes” last Sunday which portrayed her in a harsh light

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez called a recent “60 Minutes” report on false confessions in the Chicago area a “misrepresentation of the facts” and sent a letter to the chairman of CBS News.

Byron Pitts interviewed Alvarez six months ago for the segment “Chicago: The False Confession Capital,” a piece about Cook County leading the nation in false confessions that aired nationally Sunday night on CBS. It featured high-profile murder cases where teenage boys falsely confessed and were later exonerated by DNA evidence.


One particularly damaging portion of the interview involved the Dixmoor Five case in which five men were convicted as teens of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl whose body was found on a path. DNA linked a serial rapist to the crime and undermined confessions from the teens. They were cleared in 2011 after spending years in prison.

Alvarez explained in the interview that one possible explanation for the DNA was necrophilia — that the rapist had sex with the girl after she’d already been killed.

That answer — which was roundly mocked in blogs and news critiques — was misconstrued, Alvarez said in the letter. She wrote that the necrophilia theory was used at trial years before she had any involvement in the case.

“I have never advanced that theory or argument, but simply responded, when asked by Mr. Pitts, that we can’t say with certainty what had occurred,” Alvarez wrote. “This story was not designed to inform, it was designed to undermine me and mislead the public.”

She said more than that. The actual exchange

Narration: In the case of Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr and James Harden, DNA found inside the 14-year-old victim Catteresa Matthews was also retested, and a match was made to Willie Randolph, a 34-year-old convicted rapist, with 39 arrests. (Innocence Project Defense attorney) Peter Neufeld says prosecutors rejected the DNA evidence and instead came up with an unusual theory to explain it all away.

Peter Neufeld: They suggest perhaps after the kids killed her this man wandered by and committed an act of necrophilia.

Byron Pitts: Necrophilia. A lot of our viewers won’t know what that means.

Peter Neufeld: Having sex with a dead person.

Anita Alvarez: It’s possible. We have seen cases like that.

Byron Pitts: Possible?

Anita Alvarez: It is. We’ve seen it in other cases.

Byron Pitts: It’s possible that this convicted rapist, wandered past an open field, and had sex with a 14-year-old girl who was dead?

Anita Alvarez: Well, there’s all kinds of possibilities out there, and what I’m saying is that I don’t know what happened.

* But here’s the problem with Alvarez’s protests. She had an opportunity to support a common sense change in the law this year which would’ve probably prevented the false convictions of the Dixmoor Five.

A bill was introduced in February which would’ve likely prevented some confessions by juveniles without the benefit of counsel from being used in prosecutions of those minors as adults

Provides that an oral, written, or sign language statement of a minor who, at the time of the commission of the offense was under the age of 17 years, made as a result of a custodial interrogation conducted at a police station or other place of detention shall be presumed to be inadmissible as evidence against the minor in any criminal proceeding, for an act that if committed by an adult would be homicide or would be driving under the influence that was the proximate cause of death of another person unless the minor was allowed to consult with and have access to counsel throughout the entire custodial interrogation.

* From a fact sheet circulated by the proponents

In the last four months, Cook County has vacated the convictions of eleven men. Nine African American children were wrongfully convicted and served a total of 145 years in prison for rape/murders they did not commit. Seven of those nine children falsely confessed to these crimes and these confessions were used to obtain their convictions. If this bill had been law at the time of these convictions, none of these children would have been in prison.

Not passing this law is an expensive decision. On January 26th, 2012, another child who was wrongfully convicted for murder in Illinois was awarded $25million by a jury.

From a friend who passed this info along…

Such a modest proposal - you could still use the confession in juvenile court, but if there was no lawyer then there was just a presumption against admission in adult court (15 and 16 year olds automatically tried as adults based on murder confession).

Alvarez opposed the bill in committee and it went nowhere.

If she’s really so interested in preventing more of these horrific cases of false juvenile imprisonment, she’d help come up with a solution. So far, nothing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 10:23 am:

    Same old story. When you say something stupid, it’s the interviewer’s fault.

  2. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 10:45 am:

    - Byron Pitts: It’s possible that this convicted rapist, wandered past an open field, and had sex with a 14-year-old girl who was dead?

    Anita Alvarez: Well, there’s all kinds of possibilities out there, and what I’m saying is that I don’t know what happened. -

    There’s no excuse for her answer to that question. Any rational individual would at least preface the remark with “While I believe that is extremely unlikely…”

  3. - SAP - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 10:47 am:

    Under Illinois law, a 17-year old does not have the capacity to enter into a contract. For example, if a 17-year old buys a car, he or she can renounce the contract a month later, return the car, and get back all of his or her money. With that in mind, I’ll ask somebody to explain to me why Illinois holds a 17 year old to a criminal confession that is coerced, if not beaten, out of him or her.

  4. - Fire Anita Alvarez - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    Anita’s PR spokesman/woman/robot needs to be sacked, so Anita can shift more blame!

  5. - anon - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 10:51 am:

    If nothing else, the 60 Minutes piece provided some great publicity for the Chicago Innocence Project. Such a vital organization doing such important work.

  6. - Dan Bureaucrat - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:00 am:

    Watching her hang herself is somewhat gratifying given her career commitment to extending the suffering of wrongly convicted people.

    But it is a huge tragedy that we are stuck with her for another term.

    There are pressing issues that can’t wait, and she is on the wrong side of every innocence claim.

  7. - Hank - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    She needs better PR people, I believe it was old man Daley’s staff that told reporters to report what he meant, not what he said!!

  8. - shore - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:11 am:

    I didn’t know here before all this stuff but she really comes off as a cheap hack. Can’t we get cedric daniels?

  9. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    She could have said “We made a mistake in those cases. We did not have a full picture of what had happened during the police interrogation.” and left it at that. Instead, she tried to defend a clearly misguided prosecution and still insisted that the defendants were guilty. Even a friendly editor would have had serious difficulty show her in a good light.

  10. - MrJM - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:29 am:

    So Cook County’s chief prosecutor can’t handle some difficult questions from a reporter?

    No wonder she picks on little kids.

    – MrJM

  11. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:40 am:

    When 60 Minutes comes to interview you, a reasonable person would realize they stand a strong chance of looking like a chump. It does not help matters when you can’t handle a very easy question like the one Pitts asked Alvarez.

    In court he would be corrected for leading the witness, but he gets the answer he wants from her and she apparently did not see it coming.

    All in all she would have been better off not issuing a response 5 days later and keeping the interview in the public eye.

  12. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:56 am:

    Facts are stubborn things. Especially when they interfere with A.A’s attempt at revisionist history.

    Not even a week out and she’s trying to tell people they did not see what they observed with their own two eyes?

    Perhaps Alvarez’s mental disarray helps explain Cook County’s criminal disarray.

    Give a national interview and stand by the necrophilia argument? OK.
    Display some sliver of human empathy without admitting liability? Not so much.

    Double down by attacking CBS and claiming they manipulated the footage to make you look bad? OK.
    Admit you may have screwed up or misspoken? Not so much.

    ^^ Attempt to bully and even seek the grades of Northwestern journalism students helping wrongfully convicted individuals? OK.
    Support legislation designed to prevent future coerced confessions by juveniles? Not so much ^^

    Prosecute flight attendants and state senators to the hilt as gun-smuggling terrorists? OK.
    Aggressively pursue smugglers of guns, drugs and human beings (undocumented immigrants don’t exactly walk to Chicago)? Not so much.

    Better yet, just search for “Derrick King” or read the following:

    Mr. King is a “panhandler” quickly becoming infamous for violent attacks on women and strangers in Chicago, as well as being arrested nearly 100 times but rarely serving much time.

    Forgive me if this disrupts A.A.’s next press release or letter to Jeff Fager. It’s readily apparent her office has their priorities in order.

    And forgive me (no snark), fellow CapFaxers, if this comes across as a bit harsh. Learning of A.A.’s efforts in killing SB3195 surprise and baffle me. Perhaps I’ve become numb to such ineptness by legislators, but not prosecutors.

    The more we learn, the worse her decision making appears.

  13. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 11:59 am:

    === Can’t we get cedric daniels? ===

    McNulty, Freamon & Greggs, too!

  14. - Former Downstater - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 12:23 pm:

    How many Cook County residents are lamenting not voting for Tom Allen, or anyone else, four years ago?

  15. - Boone Logan Square - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 12:37 pm:

    Pathetic. Not surprising, but pathetic.

  16. - Lester Holt's Mustache - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 12:52 pm:

    =And forgive me (no snark), fellow CapFaxers, if this comes across as a bit harsh=

    No apology necessary. That is just the right level of harshness. Actually, considering her level of incompetance, it may even be a little on the light side.

    I’m beginning to think “Alvarez” translated to english means “Blagojevich”.

  17. - anon - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 1:21 pm:

    Alvarez is toast now. How anyone could continue to support her is beyond me. She made a fool of herself. Just another shill

  18. - reformer - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 1:47 pm:

    If she wants to rehabilitate her reputation, then Alvarez needs to take initiatives to curb false confessions and to promptly free the wrongly convicted. She needs to stop justifying practices that railroad black teens for crimes they didn’t commit.

  19. - Wensicia - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 2:22 pm:

    She waited almost a week before giving this pathetic response? Why bother?

  20. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 2:25 pm:

    There wasn’t anything in the report that made me think any worse of Alvarez than I already do.

  21. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 2:48 pm:

    If she wants to rehabilitate her reputation, then Alvarez needs to take initiatives to curb false confessions and to promptly free the wrongly convicted. She needs to stop justifying practices that railroad black teens for crimes they didn’t commit.

    Why would she do that when it is easier to keep doing what the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, the Chicago Police Department, and the City of Chicago have done for decades? That is, to pretend nothing happened, paper over it when it did, and try to rewrite history to say Chicago/Cook County never coerced confessions out of innocent people, threw them in prison for decades, and let the cops and prosecutors who knowingly perpetuated this arrangement mostly walk away scot-free. Why take on the system when you can just get high on the hog off it?

  22. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 4:56 pm:

    @Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thanks, Mr. Mustache. Big fan of the man behind the mustache as well.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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