While all lawyers must grapple with the delicate balance between their ethical, professional obligations and their moral values, two lawyers, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, have recently revealed how grave the consequences of this choice can be. The two recently brought to light information exonerating Alton Logan, a man who has spent the last 26 years in prison for a murder at a Southside Chicago McDonalds that he did not commit.
When Alton Logan was on trial in 1982, Coventry and Kunz were representing Andrew Wilson, a man arrested for a double homicide who also confessed to his lawyers that he was guilty of the McDonalds murder. The two lawyers were forced to wrestle with a devastating moral dilemma; to bring forward the confession would certainly free an innocent man, but would violate the ethical standard of attorney-client confidentiality, and could have put their own client on death row. After the confession, the attorneys wrote an agreement with Wilson that they could reveal his confession only after his death, and had stayed quiet for 26 long years.
Wilson died this year, and Coventry and Kunz came out with the crucial evidence as promised. Both men say they have felt great remorse over their decision to withhold the confession, but they stand by their decision as the only option they could ethically make. They also stated that had Logan received the death penalty, they would have reconsidered. To this, Logan responds:
“There is no difference between life in prison and a death penalty. None whatsoever. Both are a sentence of death” For more information, see this 60 Minutes interview with the lawyers and Logan. Separately, as Chicago Public Radio points out, there’s a question about whether the new evidence will even set Logan free.