Monday, January 21, 2008
He Deserves A Break Today: Alton Logan's Conviction Called Into Question After Secret Affidavit Is Revealed
In 1982, now 54 year-old Alton Logan was arrested for the murder of a security guard at a McDonald's in a robbery gone wrong. Witnesses identified Logan along with Edgar Hope as the two perpetrators of the crime. A few days later, however, while police were hunting down brothers Andrew and Jackie Wilson for an unrelated murder of two officers, a raid on Andrew's suspected hiding place unearthed a shotgun that tested positive as the gun used in the McDonald's shooting. However, because there were allegedly only two perpetrators in the McDonald's robbery/shooting, and because the police already had two suspects in custody, charges were never filed against Andrew Wilson in that case.
When Andrew Wilson died last November, public defenders Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, who represented Wilson, came forward with a shocking revelation. They claimed that back in the early '80s, Hope told them that Logan had nothing to do with the McDonald's shooting and that Wilson was the shooter, which led them to confront Wilson, who admitted that he, not Logan, was the trigger man in that shooting. Wilson agreed to allow Coventry and Kunz to prepare a notarized affidavit of his confession, which he signed and indicated could only be revealed after his death. The public defenders abided by Wilson's words pursuant to the attorney-client privilege, with the affidavit sitting in a metal box in Coventry's office ever since. That box was finally opened after Wilson's death, and Assistant Cook County Public Defender Harold Winston, who is currently representing Logan, has moved for a new trial based upon the affidavit.
This new evidence sets the stage for what could be a legal battle over the admission of the secret in court. The admissibility of Wilson's affidavit will be governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3), which Illinois courts have found is applicable in Illinois cases. See, e.g., People v. Tenney, 793 N.E.2d 571, 587 (Ill. 2002). Rule 804(b)(3), indicates that when a declarant is unavailable, his prior statements can still be admissible as "statements against interest," an exception to the rule against hearsay. Under Rule 804(b)(3), a statement against interest is "[a] statement which was at the time of its making so far contrary to the declarant's pecuniary or proprietary interest, or so far tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability, or to render invalid a claim by the declarant against another, that a reasonable person in the declarant's position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true."
At the same time, "[a] statement tending to expose the declarant to criminal liability and offered to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement." Obviously, Wilson's affidavit was a statement which tended to expose him to criminal liability for the McDonald's robbery/murder, so its admissibility will depend on whether the "corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement." As the Supreme Court of Illinois has noted, "'[i]n determining whether the declarant's statement has been sufficiently corroborated to merit admission in evidence, the judge should not be stringent. * * * If the issue of sufficiency of * * * corroboration is close, the judge should favor admitting the statement.'" Tenney, 793 N.E.2d at 587 (quoting Commonwealth v. Drew, 489 N.E.2d 1233, 1241 n.10 (Mass. 1986)).
Thus, it seems to me that the evidence linking the shotgun found at Wilson's alleged hiding place to the McDonald's robbery/shooting and Hope's statement that Wilson and not Logan was the shooter would constitute sufficient corroborating circumstances to allow for the admission of the affidavit into evidence.
In many ways, then, this case is similar to the case of Lee Wayne Hunt, about whom I have previously blogged. Furthermore, as I noted in that case, even if Wilson's confession is deemed not technically admissible under the rules of evidence, Wilson would have a great argument under the authority of Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284 (1973).
(My essay, Ordeal by Innocence, which addresses the Alton Logan case and why there should be a wrongful incarceration/execution exception to attorney client confidentiality can be downloaded witha free SSRN subscription [SSRN link]. My other posts on the Alton Logan case can be found here, here, here, and here).