A recent report on the program “60 Minutes,” detailing the case of Alton Logan revealed what can happen when concepts of law and morality collide.
Mr. Logan was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the murder of a security guard at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago in 1982. Police arrested him after receiving a tip, and got three eyewitnesses to identify him as the killer. Mr. Logan, as well as his mother and brother, testified that he was at home during the time of the killing and that he had nothing to do with the death of the security guard. The jury nonetheless returned a verdict of guilty, and Mr. Logan was sentenced to life in prison. In fact, the jury had voted 10-2 in favor of the DEATH PENALTY against Mr. Logan, but, because the verdict was not unanimous, Mr. Logan received a sentence of life in prison.
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The “secret” here involves another man, Andrew Wilson, and his two attorneys, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz. Apparently, at about the same time that Mr. Logan was being charged in the death of the McDonald’s security guard, Kunz and Coventry were representing Wilson on unrelated charges that he had killed two policemen. When Kunz and Coventry discussed that case with Wilson, Wilson revealed to them that it was he, Wilson, and not Logan, who had killed the security guard at the McDonald’s. The problem was that Kunz’s and Coventry’s client, Wilson, had instructed his attorneys to keep this information confidential until after Wilson’s death.
In spite of the moral dilemma presented to the attorneys, they did just that.
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The attorneys agreed that, had Logan received a death sentence, they would have revealed the secret, however, since Mr. Logan’s sentence was not a death sentence, they agreed that the rules of professional responsibility for attorneys in Illinois kept them from disclosing this secret to anyone.
While, from a moral standpoint, it might be clear what the “right” thing to do is – i.e., for the attorneys to come forward and say that their client, Wilson is guilty and that Mr. Logan is innocent – from a legal standpoint, the “right” thing to do is completely opposite – maintain the client’s confidence at all cost – even if keeping the secret means that an innocent person is locked in prison for 26 years for a crime he did not commit.
Wilson ultimately died in prison late in 2007, and, at that time, the two attorneys came forward with the information that it was Wilson, and not Logan, who killed the security guard in 1982. By this time, Mr. Logan had spent 26 years in prison for a crime conviction he did not commit.