Sunday, July 24, 2005

Chicago Tribune hatchet job follow-up

On Thursday, the Chicago Tribune ran a story harshly critical of the decision of DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett to meet with several Chicago area newspaper editorial boards to discuss the Jeanine Nicarico murder case--an indictment of convicted killer Brian Dugan is considered likely.

The case has dragged on since 1983, two other men, Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez, were twice convicted--and twice sentenced to death--for the murder of the 10-year old Jeanine. Both of the convicted men have since been exonerated.

Obviously, this is very unusual case, so the rare--if not unprecedented request--by Birkett to meet with these editorial boards should be understandable.

Not everyone agrees. This passage appeared in the Tribune article:

Bob Cummins, a former chairman of the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board who for three decades has lectured on ethics to lawyers and judges, said Birkett's efforts "may be politically savvy, but in my judgment are professionally stupid, if not worse."

"Maybe my ideas are old-fashioned, but aren't we supposed to try cases in the courtroom? Isn't that where you demonstrate the evidence?" said Cummins. "If Joe Birkett were my client, I would tell him to fire the guy who set this up and get a new political advisor."

In addition, Cummins said Birkett, depending on how much he discloses of the evidence he has presented, could be in violation of the law on grand jury secrecy and subject to a contempt of court charge.

Now, this is what the Tribune left out.

Bob Cummins is a partner in a two-person law firm, the other attorney in the firm is Tom Cronin, who was a 1996 primary opponent of Joe Birkett. Their office is at 77 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 4800, in Chicago.

And by some weird coincidence, another Birkett primary opponent, Bob Coleman was able to find space in that tiny office in Suite 4800 to set up his campaign headquarters in 2002.

And finally, one more Tribune omission: Bob Cummins was an attorney who opposed State's Attorney Birkett over the legal battle over whether the public should pay the legal fees of seven DuPage County law enforcement men who were indicted by a special prosecutor over their roles in the Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez convictions. Each of the "DuPage 7" were acquitted.

Cummins lost that case against Birkett, and the DuPage 7 did not have to dig into their personal funds to pay for their legal defense.

Shame on the Chicago Tribune. They didn't do much homework, or perhaps they chose to overlooks things. But they thought enough, as I posted above, to include this bit about Cummins:

Bob Cummins, a former chairman of the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board who for three decades has lectured on ethics to lawyers and judges...

Cummins might want to consider talking about ethics to the Tribune. And when he's done with them, he can start lecturing to himself about ethics.

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