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Another Lawsuit Filed in Wrongful Conviction Claim...

Tribune Reporter Jason Meisner Selling Out To the Wrongful Conviction Movement Again?

An inmate released in 2017 by Cook County Prosecutor Kimberly Foxx has filed a lawsuit against the city. 

And once again, the reporting on the “wrongful conviction” by Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner falls far short.

This exoneration saga claims that Adam Gray is innocent of a 1993 arson that killed two people when Gray was fourteen. From Meisner’s article:

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Police and prosecutors had alleged that at the time of the fire, Gray was angry with a girl who lived in a two-flat in the 4100 block of South Albany Avenue because she had rejected him. The eighth-grader ignited an accelerant he poured on the enclosed back porch on the second floor and the stairs, according to investigators at the time. While the girl and her parents escaped, the second-floor tenants, Peter McGuiness, 54, and his sister, Margaret Mesa, 74, died.

Meisner’s own article would compel any reasonable person to furrow their brow at his declaration that Gray is “wrongfully convicted” based on the claim of police misconduct.

Consider these little tidbits.

First, the claim is that seven police detectives would, according to Meisner’s article, conspire to frame a fourteen-year-old child for a double murder.  And it’s not just the detectives named as defendants:

Named in the 54-page lawsuit are seven former Chicago police detectives — five of whom are deceased. The defendants also include a former police officer, a former Chicago youth officer, a retired Cook County assistant state’s attorney and a former fire marshal.

That’s a lot of people. Perhaps Meisner and the Tribune, would, as a sign of their commitment to “independent journalism,” point out exactly how all these people got together and decided to pin the murder on Gray, then concoct a story about it, and then agree to get him to confess. The moving parts of such a conspiracy would be significant. Perhaps Meisner would shed some light on how it took shape?

Then consider this sentence:

A gas station clerk said Gray bought gas shortly before the fire.

How compelling. A fourteen-year-old kid was buying gas right before an arson he later confessed to? Did the detectives convince a clerk to join in on their conspiracy to frame a kid, or was it just a happy accident that a gas station clerk came forward to finger Gray at the same time detectives were working to frame him?

And then there is this compelling little tidbit:

But months later, Cook County Judge Angela Petrone denied a new trial, unconvinced that Gray’s lawyers produced enough evidence for a jury to acquit him. In a lengthier written ruling, she cited Gray’s confession and testimony by two alleged eyewitnesses.

So a judge looked at the evidence brought forth by Gray’s attorneys and denied a new trial? Looks like Judge Petrone didn’t get the Meisner memo that Gray was "wrongfully convicted."

Meisner then reaches into ancient history to draw parallels from Gray’s wrongful conviction claim to a case in Texas in which his paper argued that an innocent man may have been executed for an arson he did not commit:

Many convictions have been set aside, including the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three young daughters.

 A Tribune investigation of the case that year showed that Willingham’s conviction was based on faulty science. A state forensic science commission in Texas later agreed that the conviction was flawed, but Willingham’s prosecutor still stands by the conviction.

Texas? There are a lot more compelling cases in Chicago’s own bastion of wrongful conviction history that might be more applicable to Meisner’s article, that might be just as worthy as background to the story.

How about the exoneration of Madison Hobley in 2003 for a 1987 arson that killed seven? Two witnesses saw Hobley purchase gas at a nearby station shortly before his apartment building went up in flames and seven people died, just as Meisner lists a store clerk observed Gray purchasing gasoline.

That case has generated new scrutiny, not as a wrongful conviction but as a possible wrongful exoneration. Here’s one reason. One of those witnesses in the Hobley case came forward years later and stated under oath that he was offered a bribe to change his testimony. Not even a sentence from Meisner about this case right in Chicago’s backyard?

Not even a sentence about other wrongful conviction claims that are blowing up in the courts with allegations of bribed witnesses, female students dressing provocatively to entice statements from witnesses? Just one sentence, Meisner?

And here’s the real heart of the story that Meisner ignores:

Gray’s attorneys filed an appeal shortly after, and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office agreed to dismiss the charges, although the office did not weigh in on whether he was actually innocent of the crime.

Foxx tossed the conviction without articulating whether her office thought Gray was innocent or guilty. How’s that for a prosecutor protecting the public?

Foxx’s epidemic of releasing convicted killers on the highly suspicious claims of police misconduct is the real story in Chicago. 

Recently, for example, Foxx’s administration refused to retry two men, Arturo Reyes and Gabriel Solache, convicted in the stabbing deaths of a couple in 1998. Foxx’s right-hand man, Eric Sussman, stated that the two men would not be retried even though his office still believed the men were guilty.

Foxx also released two other convicted men, Roberto Almodovar Jr. and Jose Juan Maysonet Jr.

They have filed civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court.

Former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez fiercely fought overturning Aldomovar’s conviction. But Foxx’s office did a 180. Once again, Foxx let him out.

The tactics of the Foxx administration have put Chicago Police detectives in a trick bag. Constantly buying the statements of convicted killers and their associates over the claims of police detectives, the detectives heed the advice of their lawyers and take the Fifth. Foxx and the wrongful conviction attorneys then argue that taking the Fifth is a sign that detectives may be guilty or prevents prosecutors from retrying the case.

After the offenders are released, they file multimillion-dollar lawsuits. One wonders: How much of the settlement money in those cases will find its way back to the Foxx reelection campaign funding?

And at the core of it is a cabal of journalists like Jason Meisner, working as more of a public relations spokesperson for the law firms alleging police misconduct than a reporter interested in getting at the truth.