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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | August 26, 2002

Karma not on Ryan's side

Funny how current events can sometimes resurrect ghosts from the past.

In 1996, as a college journalist, I made a cause out of the plight of Rolando Cruz, a semi-retarded Latino on death row for the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicario. Convicted on the basis of a fabricated 'confession', Cruz was tried three times for the murder, was sentenced to death twice, only to have the Illinois Supreme Court reverse the convictions due to gross prosecutorial conduct. On the third attempt, the state was successful. Cruz's conviction stood. That is, until a Northwestern University journalism class was able to prove his innocence.

At the center of this firestorm was the DuPage County State's Attorney. He knew of evidence that would've cleared Cruz and another co-defendant, but suppressed the evidence and pushed for each of Cruz's murder trials. The State Attorney's name? Jim Ryan, the current GOP candidate for Illinois governor. At the time, I wrote that Ryan was clearly using the case as a springboard to the governor's office. The case received wide media attention, and Ryan basked in the limelight.

Unlike most politically motivated capital trials, this one had a sort of happy ending. Cruz was exonerated and received a multi-million dollar settlement. The case was a major reason Illinois instituted a moratorium on all executions. Surprisingly, some of the prosecutors and sheriff deputies involved in Cruz's frame-up where indicted, though a jury (not surprisingly) acquitted them in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt.

Why do I rehash this now? Because I believe in Karma. The latest poll has Ryan trailing by 15 points, 49 to 34 percent.

(Incidentally, Trib columnist Eric Zorn, who made the Nicario case one of his causes, has archived all his Nicario columns here. Information on the shameful acquittal of the DuPage seven is on the last of five pages of columns, here.)

Update: TalkLeft adds some good additional information on the case I was too lazy to include.

Posted August 26, 2002 10:51 AM | Comments (0)


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