All charges have at last been dropped against 55-year-old Alton Logan, who languished behind bars more than a quarter of a century for the murder of a security guard -- a crime that two Chicago public defenders knew almost from the beginning he hadn't committed.
The murder occurred on Jan. 11, 1982, at a McDonald's restaurant on the far South Side of Chicago. Logan and a man named Edgar Hope were arrested and charged with the crime the following month, based on identifications by a second security guard who was wounded in the incident. The guard was right about Hope, but wrong about Logan.
A few days after the arrest of Logan and Hope, a man named Andrew Wilson was arrested and charged with the unrelated murder of two Chicago police officer. Hope then promptly told his lawyer that he had committed the crime not with Logan but rather with Wilson.
When Hope's lawyer told Wilson's public defenders, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, what Hope had said, they confronted Wilson. He confessed to them, but they considered themselves ethically bound -- by the attorney-client privilege -- not to reveal the confession. They did, however, prepare a notarized affidavit and locked it in a metal box, where it remained until Wilson died of natural causes in prison on November 19, 2007. At that point Coventry and Kunz considered themselves no longer ethically bound to keep Wilson's secret.
It was not until five months after Coventry and Kunz came forward that Logan won release on bail. Even then, Cook County prosecutors threatened to retry him -- a threat they finally dropped on Thursday by formally dismissing the charges.