Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Attorney - Client Privilege

The following is taken from the ABA Journal: link

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Inmate’s Freedom Hinges on Lawyers’ Revelation That Dead Client Killed Guard in ‘82

Posted Jan 22, 2008, 12:32 pm CST
By Martha Neil

Almost 26 years ago, as two Chicago public defenders were representing a client accused of murdering two police officers, their case suddenly got a lot tougher.

A lawyer defending another man accused of murdering a security guard in an unrelated case told the two PDs that his client said that their client, Andrew Wilson, was guilty of the security guard's murder, too. And, when Dave Coventry and Jamie Kunz confronted Wilson, he admitted the accusation was true, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"He kind of chuckled over the fact that someone else was charged with something he did," recalls Coventry, now 64. However, he said that his two lawyers could reveal the truth after his death.

Because the two PDs were representing Wilson, attorney-client privilege applied and they couldn't ethically tell anyone else about his admitted role in the January 1982 killing on Chicago's far south side. However, they wrote down the details in a notarized affidavit and locked it in a metal box. Last week, after Wilson's death of natural causes in November, as he was serving a life sentence for the police officers' murders, Coventry and Kunz testified in court about their client's confession to them.

That sets the stage for the potential release of Alton Logan, 54, who was convicted of the security guard's murder based on witness testimony.

Both lawyers say it has been difficult knowing for decades that an innocent man was in prison, while they had no choice but to keep their client's secret.

Now that the truth has come out, "it was a relief," says Kunz, 70. "Oh my God, I have been wanting this. I have considered this to be the truth. I have been wanting this to come out for years. I don't know anything about Alton Logan. It hurts to know somebody is in prison all these years and is innocent."

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End of Story

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This illustrates the real problem with attorney client privilege. Clients are not always honest. Some clients lie. They lie to their lawyers, to law enforcement authorities, their families and friends and anyone else who can help them. It is disgustingly common for a criminal defendant to accuse someone else of his crime and then let that person take the heat. In the middle of this you have the Defense attorney. The most sacred oath an attorney takes is that he will never reveal the secrets of his client, even if the client has committed truly horrible, immoral acts. This makes the attorney an unwilling but nevertheless vital enabler to his client's misdeeds.

There is a spirited debate going on over this case in bar associations all over the nation. Attorney's may now break privilege in limited circumstances, usually when another person is in imminent danger of death or serious injury. Don't be surprised to see bar association resolutions in the future that will allow an attorney to divulge attorney-client privileged information when it is necessary to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice such as the conviction of an innocent man.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Libertarian said...

I hope that the rules are revised. I don't see why this type of law exists. A lawyer's duty should not be to his/her client over the law or 26 years of an innocent man's life.

I can't believe the two attorneys in this case never said anything for such a long time, especially when their client was already serving life in prison for other murders! Their client wouldn't have served a day longer in prison if they had opened their mouths, and yet they let an innocent man's life be ruined in this way.

I can't believe that two people who swear to protect the law and are "public servants" (public defenders) could act this way. I really can't believe it. No wonder people say that there aren't any heroes anymore. No one has any courage to do anything that will be any skin off their back, no matter what it costs another person and that person's family.

1:52 PM  

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