Blago's appointment of Roland Burris to the Obama Senate seat was greeted with widespread praise for the designee as an honest man swimming untainted in the Chicago political sewer. But disturbing indicators of something other than a distinguished elder statesman keep coming to light. The latest discovery comes from Politico, via Ace.
It seems that as state attorney general, Burris pressed for the execution of a man so obviously innocent that prosecutors resigned in protest rather than pursue the case.
Ben Protess of Poltiico writes:
While state attorney general in 1992, Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The crime took place in 1983.
But by 1992, another man had confessed to the crime, and Burris' own deputy attorney general was pleading with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.
Burris refused. He was running for governor.
"Anybody who understood this case wouldn't have voted for Burris," Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told ProPublica. Indeed, Burris lost that race, and two other attempts to become governor.
This is ugly indeed. It appears that the taking of an innocent life was a price Burris was willing to pay to advance his political ambitions. This is not something which disqualifies him from service in the Senate, but (if true) it ought to disqualify him from honor in any political party. Well, except the Democrats maybe.
Hat tip: Larwyn
Update -- Rosslyn Smith writes:
I found this one a bit of stretch. The shows that politicians of both parties bungled the case of Roland Cruz. As this 2005 article notes
, the case has been mentioned in numerous Illinois races since the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico. Roland Burris was far from alone among Illinois officials in pushing that Cruz be executed.
The crime for which Rolando Cruz was wrongly convicted was dreadful. On February 23, 1983 Jeanine Nicarico, age 10, was left at home alone for the day because she had a fever. No sitter could be found. When the family returned home, Jeanine was missing. Two days later her body was found. She had been raped and murdered. The crime had happened in Naperville, a suburb that has long prided itself on its quality of life. To say the pressure to make an arrest was intense is an understatement. It was every parent's nightmare come to life. The story dominated the Chicago news. Police and politicians alike understood that careers would be affected if this case went unsolved. Once arrests were made, no one in authority was open to the suggestion that a mistake may have been made.
Some pundits attribute Blagojevich's 2002 victory to the fact that his Republican challenger, State Attorney General Jim Ryan, shared the last name of a disgraced governor who had opted out of running for reelection. But Jim Ryan had started his political career in heavily Republican DuPage county by defeating the prosecutor originally in charge of the Nicarico case and had continued the prosecution of Rolando Cruz. When the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the case, he tried Cruz again and was overturned again. He then tried Cruz a third time only to have the case fall apart. The Tribune did not let voters forget this during the 2002 campaign.
The man most now consider guilty of the murder, Brian Dugan, is awaiting a January 20 trial date.
Dugan is already serving two life sentences for the murders of a 7-year-old girl and a 27-year old woman. He had offered through his attorney to confess to the Nicarico murder back in 1985 while on trial for those two murder in return for an assurance the death penalty would not be pursued.