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Monday | September 30, 2002

Did Ryan try to execute innocent man?

In Illinois, the Dem candidates for governor and attorney general have dropped all vague innuendo to flat out accuse GOP candidates Jim Ryan (guv) and Joe Birkett (AG) of trying to execute an innocent man.This article offers the most comprehensive look at the issue to date.

The Attack:

Blagojevich and other Jim Ryan opponents over the years have charged that Ryan tried to put an innocent man to death--twice.

Six years after Rolando Cruz has been found not guilty, Jim Ryan will not apologize, will not say he believes Cruz to be innocent and will not sign a petition asking the governor to pardon Cruz.


Nearly seven years after Rolando Cruz was acquitted of the rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico, and 17 years after Brian Dugan confessed to the crime and gave details only the killer could know, Joe Birkett still has not charged Dugan. Birkett's critics say that's because charging Dugan would mean admitting he was wrong about Cruz.

Ryan's Response:
Over the years, Ryan rarely departs from a few stock answers on the Cruz case that he repeats over and over again:

"I made my decision based on the totality of the evidence," he says, or "I did what I thought was right based on the evidence I knew at the time" or "Some of the evidence changed after I became attorney general."

Then the article takes a comprehensive look at the facts of the case, the trials, the prosecutors and the fallout to the candidates. To get an idea of just how bad Ryan's case was, check out this:
No physical evidence or eyewitnesses linked the three suspects to the crime. Prosecutors found a North Carolina anthropologist who testified Buckley's boot matched a print on the Nicaricos' front door. The FBI later discredited the North Carolina expert's opinion.

At the heart of the prosecution's case was a "vision statement" two DuPage County sheriff's police detectives said Cruz gave them about two months after the murder. It was purportedly about a dream Cruz had about a murdered girl. Detectives said it contained details that only Jeanine's killer could know, but they never filed a report on the statement, nor did they question Cruz about it in later interviews. Ryan's prosecutors did not tell defense lawyers about it until days before the trial.

After a seven-week trial, Cruz and Hernandez were convicted in February 1985. The jury deadlocked on Buckley, and he was not retried after the bootprint evidence fell apart.

But about eight months after Cruz and Hernandez were convicted, sex offender Brian Dugan confessed to prosecutors that he and he alone killed Jeanine. He was not an unlikely candidate. Dugan, then 27, was in the La Salle County Jail negotiating a plea bargain for the June 2, 1985, abduction, rape and murder of another girl, 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk.

The evidence that Dugan also killed Jeanine went beyond his confession. He easily pointed out the Nicarico house to a State Police investigator trying to verify his story. He knew details about the inside of the home and the medical tape and towel used to blindfold the girl. Time sheets showed he missed work the day of the murder. A witness placed him in the Nicaricos' neighborhood that day.

Dugan led police to the area near the nature trail where Jeanine's body was found. Two tollway workers described seeing a white male driving a car similar to Dugan's green Plymouth Volare--right down to a missing hubcap--near the trail that day. A farmhand told police he remembered seeing a shoe or boot in a field where Dugan said he threw his boots after the crime. Dugan knew the child had been sodomized. And unlike Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley, Dugan had a history of attacking women and girls.

Veteran State Police investigator Ed Cisowski became convinced that Dugan was telling the truth. But Cisowski claims he got little help from Ryan's assistants, Robert Kilander or Patrick King.

"When I asked for a copy of the case report, Kilander told me, 'No, Jim Ryan doesn't like to be second-guessed,'" Cisowski testified.

Thus Jim Ryan, candidate for governor of the great state of Illinois, almost put an innocent man to death because he "didn't like to be second-guessed." Just brilliant. Eventually, Cruz' "vision statement" was proved to be a fabrication by a sheriff deputy.
Ryan forged ahead and prosecuted the two again. And in a series of retrials and reversals by higher courts, his assistants tried to keep Dugan's confession away from jurors, limit how much jurors heard about Dugan and ultimately revised their theory of the crime to suggest Dugan, Cruz and Hernandez were in it together--even though they never charged Dugan with the crime.

In September 1995, nearly a year after Ryan had moved on to statewide office, DNA tests on sperm found in Jeanine's body determined that Cruz could not have raped her. But Dugan was a potential match. Later that year, Judge Ronald Mehling acquitted Cruz after sheriff's police Lt. James Montesano admitted that two detectives below him could not have told him about the "vision statement" back in May 1983, as he had earlier testified.

If you want to read more, check out my previous post on the issue.

As usual, the prolific TalkLeft has more - MUCH MORE - here.

Posted September 30, 2002 08:44 AM | Comments (0)


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