Journalist Under Fire in Allegations Against Former Detective Boudreau
Attorneys Argue Reporter Left Out Key Evidence Against Freed Inmate…
Defense Attorneys in a federal lawsuit are attempting to depose a journalist from the New Yorker magazine in a major exoneration case alleging misconduct, claiming the writer crossed the line from journalism to advocacy and provided the foundation for former Govern Pat Quinn to release a convicted killer.
The city attorneys, defending retired detectives Kenny Boudreau, James O’Brien, and Jack Halloran, among others, in a federal civil lawsuit appear to be seeking evidence that New Yorkerwriter Nicholas Schmidle was working on behalf of attorneys representing Tyrone Hood in Hood’s quest to secure millions for his claimed “wrongful conviction.”
Tyrone Hood and Wayne Washington were convicted for the 1993 murder of Marshall Morgan Jr. Morgan was a basketball player at the Illinois Institute of Technology when he was shot to death. Though convicted, Hood had his sentence commuted in the waning moments of Governor Quinn’s scandal-plagued administration. Hood’s attorneys have filed a federal civil lawsuit against the detectives.
But city attorneys are alleging that Schmidle’s 2014 article “Crime Fiction: Did the Chicago Police Coerce Witnesses into Pinpointing the Wrong Man for Murder?” Was in fact geared toward engineering public opinion in favor of Hood’s innocence claims. They allege that Schmidle left out compelling evidence of Hood’s guilt.
From court documents:
In other words, . . . [Schmidle’s] story selectively includes evidence and themes provided by Hood’s attorneys to make a convincing argument for Hood’s innocence, to the exclusion of evidence that undermines Hood’s claims. It is exactly the type of “friendly” journalism Hood’s team envisioned in their plan to try the case outside of the courts, and Schmidle appears to have crossed the line from journalist to advocate in creating a story championing Hood’s cause. . . .
Mr. Schmidle was not on the sidelines reporting a story from a distance. He was an advocate in the thick of the effort to exonerate Hood through a public relations campaign. That effort is relevant because it led to the clemency decision, which Hood touts as an official recognition of his innocence by the State of Illinois.
The detectives who worked the case, including Kenneth Boudreau, Jack Halloran, and Jim O’Brien, have been the target of civil rights law firms and the media for decades in a host of federal lawsuits and media articles. But the subpoena of Schmidle is another sign that the detectives and city attorneys aren’t buying these claims.
Indeed, the motion demanding Schmidle’s deposition gives life to sentiments by Boudreau and many police officers, prosecutors, and attorneys who assert a tripartite collusion among political figures, civil rights law firms, and media allies to gin up lucrative lawsuits against detectives. There now exists a large body of evidence—a pattern and practice, if you will—of media coverage so biased as to make reporters little more than public relations agents for the law firms suing detectives and to give a pass to political figures for their role in them.
In fact, attorneys representing the detectives cite evidence in court documents they say shows advocates of Hood openly boasting of such collusion between the media and lawyers claiming false convictions.
For example, former governor Pat Quinn, they argue, attended a panel discussion entitled “Trying a Case Outside the Courts” with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago in which the members actually discussed their strategy of circumventing the courts with media pressure.
From the Exoneration Project:
Hood’s release from prison and subsequent conviction dismissal—a victory for the Law School’s Exoneration Project—involved the exercise of executive power and a deliberate media strategy. . . .
Hood’s case first fell under scrutiny when evidence suggested that witness testimony connecting him to the murder was the product of police coercion. This evidence, along with proof that linked the victim’s father to the crime, garnered public support and led to extensive media coverage of his conviction.
[Karl] Leonard, an associate at Winston & Strawn, stressed the value of using this media coverage advantageously. “The most important thing was that we had the contacts and that we used them at the right time,” he said.
They sure did. But attorneys for the detectives also point out in their motions an illuminating evolution in Quinn’s behavior. Quinn commuted Hood’s sentence, they argue, then began claiming Hood was innocent. But now that defense attorneys want to depose Quinn, he suddenly doesn’t want to talk about it:
Since granting Hood clemency and leaving office, Mr. Quinn has not shied away from publicity his decision received. To the contrary, he has willingly given interviews, spoken on panels, and made public appearances with and about Hood. . . . Now that he has been subpoenaed, however, Mr. Quinn no longer wishes to discuss his decision to grant Hood’s clemency request, at least not with defendant’s counsel.
And certainly no Chicago media outlet, many of whom are running around claiming that police officers regularly point guns at children in the course of serving search warrants, wants to talk to Quinn about it, since not one of them has even covered the fact that a former governor is being sought for a deposition in a landmark criminal case.
There’s another likely explanation why the media won’t cover the story of Quinn being called to testify about a decision that hints at a shocking abuse of power: It’s not the only one. Just before he left office, Quinn also arbitrarily commuted the sentence of a man convicted of shooting three police officers in 2005 and another man who was convicted of lying in a case that could have freed two convicted killers. The media response to these unprecedented abuses of power?
A code of silence.
As it is, Schmidle being forced to testify could be an illuminating piece of evidence in the Hood lawsuit, and a compelling explanation of how the media, politics, and law work in Chicago, particularly during the reign of Governor Quinn.