* 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.