Archive for the ‘Prosecutorial Misconduct’ Category


If he is any bit a humanitarian, State’s Attorney, Joe Bruscato should not waste a moment in reviewing and dismissing the prosecution of John Horton, and ending the 23 years of suffering which this man has endured.

 

http://www.rrstar.com/news/20161012/illinois-appellate-court-says-rockford-man-convicted-of-murder-entitled-to-new-trial

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Read the article below about why and how a double standard exists in holding cops responsible for killing civilians such as in the Ferguson and Garner cases. The article spells out at least 10 ways the public either ignores, is not aware of, or doesn’t care about biases which are inherent and pervasive in our judicial system and police operations and which fail to hold cops responsible for actions which we would feel to be unlawful in under any other circumstances. Most of us don’t know how easily anyone can be endangered by the police who we automatically assume are always right. We never see how police departments, the courts and the prosecutors work to excuse or coverup their misdeeds when presenting to the Grand Juries and making determinations. It is shocking to read that literally hundreds of police killings have not been reported to the feds and that the exercise of excessive force is disregarded and common. Instead, we assume that our local controversies, (such as the Barmore shooting) are the rare exception in our local communities and resent being reminded of them. We need to wake and familiarize ourselves with exactly how our authorities operate. Grand juries need to stop rubber-stamping the perspectives of the State’s Attorney’s office and exercise the power they have to thoroughly independently call and investigate every matter brought before them to ensure that injustice does not continue to squeak by every day….

10 Ways the System Is Rigged Against Justice for People Wrongly Killed by Cops

STEVEN ROSENFELD DECEMBER 4, 2014
Why is the legal system so biased against holding abusive officers accountable?

(more…)


Defense: Prosecutors intentionally misled jury on Richard Wanke murder charges

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

Posted May. 30, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

Updated at 3:39 PM

ROCKFORD — Richard Wanke’s defense says prosecutors intentionally misled a grand jury in order to secure murder charges against him in the death of attorney Gregory Clark.

Wanke’s attorney, Sami Azhari, filed a motion to dismiss the charges today during an appearance around 1:30 p.m. before Judge Rosemary Collins. The motion claims that prosecutors led a grand jury to falsely think gun residue was found on Wanke’s clothing.

State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato said his office will not comment on pending litigation.

Clark, Wanke’s lawyer in a previous burglary case, was shot in the back on Feb. 6, 2008, while clearing snow from a sidewalk in front of his house. Wanke was out of jail awaiting sentencing on burglary charges at the time of the shooting. He has denied any involvement in Clark’s death. Wanke is currently being held in Winnebago County Jail.

Six years after the shooting — on April 16 — prosecutors sought first-degree murder charges against Wanke in a hearing before the grand jury. It was during testimony from Rockford Police Sgt. Kurt Whisenand, the state’s only witness at the hearing, that prosecutors misled the jury, according to Azhari’s motion.

A portion of the transcript of the grand jury testimony, which was included in Azhari’s motion, shows that Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Brun asked Whisenand whether a bag of clothing found during the investigation had been tested for gunshot residue. It was, Whisenand said. Brun then asked Whisenand whether he was familiar with a Illinois State Police Crime Lab report that “indicated they did, in fact, detect particles characteristic of background samples on the clothing in that bag.” Whisenand affirmed that background particles had been found.

The problem, Azhari says, is that the background particles are not actually evidence of gunshot residue. But he says Brun led the jury to believe they were.

“He’s insinuating that the background particles are gunshot residue and, in fact, they are not,” Azhari said. “Background particles are just natural environment particles.

“If they tested my hands or your hands, or my clothes or your clothes right now — and we’ve never fired a gun — we would have background particles.”

When a grand jury member later asked Brun for a clarification, Brun said, according to the transcript: “There were particles — the way the lab report and the testimony was presented, there were particles consistent with gunshot residue.”

Azhari said prosecutors had not presented anything new in the six years since the shooting

Page 2 of 2 – “There’s been no new evidence that I’m aware of in the 967 pages of discovery that I’ve reviewed that has anything that’s come up since 2008,” he said.

Kevin Haas: 815-987-1410; khaas@rrstar.com;@KevinMHaas

via http://www.rrstar.com/article/20140530/NEWS/140539935/


Innocence Blog: North Carolina Compensates Two Wrongly Convicted Men.


A Louisville Metro Police lieutenant is trying to block the department from firing him, saying he is the victim of retaliation for his involvement in a whistleblower lawsuit.

Lt. Richard Pearson joined in a lawsuit in April filed by Detective Barron Morgan, who said he was punished for trying to assist a Spencer County woman who claimed she was wrongfully convicted of homicide.

Morgan alleged he was demoted last August to a patrol officer on the graveyard shift for telling the Kentucky Innocence Project that another suspect had confessed to the homicide for which Susan King was serving 10 years in prison.

via Louisville police officer claims firing is retaliation for whistle-blower suit | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com.


Local Attorneys Seem to Have Problems Watching What They Say in Public!

Sitting State’s Attorney, Democrat, Joe Bruscato is facing a challenge this November for his office, from Republican, Glen Weber. Now, up to this debate, we were kinda simpathetic to the election plight of Mr. Weber. See, we’ve watched the press splash the news across the area about Weber’s censureship by the IL Supreme Court stemming from a “…May recommendation from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission that Weber be censured for making improper statements to juries in four criminal cases that took place in Winnebago County and Jo Daviess County between 1999 and 2003…” The IL Supreme Court upheld the censure from a complaint filed in 2007, and Weber is now one of 18 out of 91,000 IL state attorneys who have been officially censured for various matters. We thought it somewhat coincidental that Weber’s case just happened to be decided by the IL Supreme Court just in the nick of time to place him in a negative light in the eyes of county voters just when he happens to be challenging Bruscato for office. It just put a bad taste in our mouths…

But now, here Weber goes again, just freshly censored and seemingly happy to do the same thing all over again! We don’t know if Weber has had the chance to review any of the evidence in the Greg Clark murder investigation (as a non-party, he should have no access to the sealed court case evidence), but he appears happy enough to publicly state conclusively that “…We all know who killed Greg, and here we are over 3½ years into this man’s term and no charge…”after the IL Supreme Court decision summary  states of Weber’s conduct that Weber previously “…alluded to matters he did not reasonably believe to be true” and made prejudicial statements during trial…” (RRSTAR articles below) Considering that the conviction in one of Weber’s past four cases was overturned by the IL Appellate Court, in part, because it found that Weber’s “improper remarks” deprived the defendant of a “fair trial”, one would think that Weber by now would be considering any remarks he makes concerning any criminal investigation very carefully and making sure they are only factual. Further, if Weber can’t restrain himself and has to select ANY on-going criminal investigation to talk about with any degree of certainty, why the heck would he make himself a target of ridicule and criticism by talking about an investigation which, after four-and-a-half years has been officially labeled as an “unsolved murder” by the Rockford Police Department?????

So, it is official; we are not backing Glen Weber for the office of Winnebago County State’s Attorney. Glen Weber is not the only local attorney to speak ill-advisedly (in our opinion) of the lack of criminal charges being brought against either Richard Wanke, or Diane Chavez, in connection with the 2008 Greg Clark murder. Attorney Bart Henbest also commented publicly in May 2012, (see article below), but, at least, we can understand why he would feel a need for closure on Clark’s death, considering his position as Clark’s relative. Unfortunately, while it seems that many murder victim families believe that such closure is achieved with a conviction, studies show that that is not always often the case, as the loss suffered continues to pervade their future lives as it happens with inmates wrongfully convicted and released after a long imprisonment.

But we cannot excuse or understand Weber’s impetus to publicly make remarks we feel are ignorant, harmful, and inappropriate concerning the Clark murder investigation. We have to wonder how the RRSTAR can send a reporter to cover the debate who fails to confront a candidate with the question of the appropriateness  of his remarks given the current status of an on-going investigation. Sadly, it appears to us that the RRSTAR again does not perform it’s community duty to question substance but merely likes good “sound bites”. It appears to us that Glen Weber is too willing to discard propriety and to disregard anyone else’s reputation in his eagerness to assume the SA’s office. We hope he is taught a lesson come November 2012, if not  sooner.

Joe Bruscato and Glen Weber square off before their own

By Chris Green
Posted Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:25 PM

LOVES PARK — Incumbent Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato and private practice attorney Glen Weber spoke Wednesday night at a forum at the Forest Hills Country Club as if they were delivering closing arguments to a jury as to why each should be elected the county’s top prosecutor come Nov. 6.

“You do have a clear choice in this election for state’s attorney,” Bruscato said, “You can elect a lawyer and prosecutor or you can elect a prosecutor, an administrator, an advocate, a steward, a mentor and a leader.”

Weber said the choice is between “an experienced trial lawyer and someone who has virtually no experience whatsoever trying serious criminal cases in the courtroom.”

The two spoke before members of the Winnebago County Bar Association. More than 50 people were in attendance.
Unlike a traditional debate, the candidates were each allowed 10 minutes to state their case for being state’s attorney, and the final 10 minutes was reserved for a question and answer period.

Bruscato opened the forum and spoke of the many facets of being a state’s attorney.

“Being a state’s attorney is about being an effective administrator.”

He spoke of his success in managing nearly 80 attorneys and staff members.

“When I began this job, our office prosecuted about 57 jury trials a year. Now we do more than 100.”

He also spoke of reducing the jail population by 10 percent in the last three months.

Weber made the death of a colleague the centerpiece of his argument. It’s been 3½ years since Attorney Gregory Clark was murdered, and his killer has yet to be charged.

“We all know who killed Greg, and here we are over 3½ years into this man’s term and no charge. What about the justice for Greg Clark’s family? This is why I talk and talk and talk about my trial experience to everyone who will listen.”

Clark, 60, was shot multiple times in the back on Feb. 6, 2008, as he cleared snow from his property outside his Oak Forest Drive home.

Asked by a member of the audience if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case, Bruscato said because the case is still active, “I find it inappropriate to comment on the case.”

Bruscato did note he is the first Winnebago County State’s Attorney since 1985 to prosecute a case. “That is a personnel decision that each state’s attorney must face in Winnebago County,” he said. “It’s a hard job and being an administrator as well certainly takes up enough time, but I thought it was important to do both roles.”

Weber stressed his trial experience in trying 123 felony jury trials, 43 of them first-degree murder cases.

He said: “You can call me stubborn, sure. Hardheaded? Certainly. Too aggressive? Maybe. But each and everyone of you know I will give my heart and soul to make sure that killer is brought to justice.”

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com@chrisfgreen

Rockford police website to turn spotlight on unsolved murders

By Chris Green
Posted May 06, 2012 @ 06:25 PM

ROCKFORD — A new feature on the Rockford Police Department’s website, Unsolved Murders, is expected to debut this month.

One unsolved homicide between 2007 and 2011 will be featured on the site —rockfordil.gov/police — each month. Lt. Marc Welsh said the department is purposefully not labeling them as cold cases.

“We want to send the message to the families of the murder victims that the murder of their loved ones is never forgotten,” he said. “Putting this information out is our effort to obtain any new tips to help us solve them.”

Administrators are reviewing the content of the site, which is expected to go live in the coming days. The 2008 fatal shooting of prominent local attorney Gregory Clark is slated to be the first featured on the site.

Welsh said: “It’s a high-profile case, and there’s been no new information on it in the past year.”

Two arrested
Shortly before 2 p.m. Feb. 6, 2008, a passenger in a blue minivan sprang forward and opened fire on Clark, who was clearing snow from the sidewalk around his house at Sentinel Road and Oakforest Drive. The gunman got back into the van, which sped off.

Clark, 60, apparently never saw his killer. He was shot several times in the back.

His wife, Phyllis, found him on the sidewalk. He was taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:20 p.m.

Later that day, police arrested two people, housemates Richard E. Wanke, one of Clark’s clients, and Diane Chavez, with whom Wanke was living at the time.

Prosecutors publicly called both of them “people of interest” in the homicide investigation.

In the days after the shooting, police provided prosecutors eyewitness accounts placing Chavez and Wanke and the blue minivan they shared at the scene of the shooting. However, neither has been charged in connection with Clark’s death.

Obstructing justice
On Aug. 14, 2008, Wanke began serving a 14-year prison sentence for unrelated burglary charges. Clark was Wanke’s attorney of record when he was killed.

Winnebago County court records indicate Wanke wanted his burglary conviction reversed based on ineffective assistance of counsel, among other complaints.

Chavez was charged with obstructing justice for lying to police the day of Clark’s death. Police said Chavez told them that Wanke did not live with her and refused to let officers search the residence when they went there looking for Wanke.

Wanke, 50, is serving his sentence at the Jacksonville Correctional Center. His projected parole date is May 7, 2014.

Case solved
Barton Henbest, Clark’s law partner and son-in-law, believes the gunman responsible for Clark’s death is already behind bars, but not for the murder of Clark. Henbest was surprised to learn the case is slated to be featured on the police website as an unsolved murder.

“It’s a solved case,” he said. “It’s just an unprosecuted one.

“In my opinion, it needs to be prosecuted.”

Henbest said his desire for a prosecution is not just based on his 20-year friendship with Clark and the family’s need for closure.

“I know there are detectives in the Rockford Police Department who have put enough information in front of (the Winnebago County state’s attorney’s office), but they have made the decision not to go forward.”

State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato declined to comment other than to say: “It’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to compromise the investigation.”

Anyone with information about Clark’s death is asked to call Rockford police, 815-987-5824, or Crime Stoppers, 815-963-7867.

Reach staff writer Chris Green at cgreen@rrstar.com or 815-987-1241.


Michael Morton spent 24 years in prison before new DNA testing showed that he did not beat his wife to death in 1986. Now, the one individual who may have been most responsible for his wrongful conviction faces an inquiry of possible wrongdoing on the case. Judge Ken Anderson was the original prosecutor against Michael Morton and allegations that he withheld crucial evidence and many police reports which might have shown Morton’s innocence arose during and after Morton’s trial and have dogged him since.

Judge Ken Anderson

Judge Ken Anderson

Anderson inquiry set for September

“…The two attorneys for Judge Anderson wrote earlier this month that it would “compound the tragedy” of Mr. Morton’s wrongful conviction to pursue criminal charges against the former prosecutor. They argued that a court of inquiry was not an appropriate vehicle for such an investigation…”

Morton lawyers: Anderson’s silence ‘speaks volumes’


Geez, it’s like nothing will convince some of these guys that they are wrong and shouldn’t be prosecuting the innocent! Michael Mermel not only needs to go; but why should the law protect him rather than all the persons he may have zealously prosecuted to the max despite their not being guilty? Lake County should review all of the cases he has handled to see if evidence was properly handled and presented, and past defendants convicted by him should determine if they have grounds for appeal based on his stated views on DNA, which (per this article) seem to have been well-known for a long time.

Illinois Prosecutor Who Challenged DNA Evidence Will Resign


The Herald-Tribune examines how Florida police officers can stay on the job despite multiple complaints, crimes

This site features a thorough series of 9 in-depth media reports exposing just how flawed Florida police departments are and how despite flagrant abuses Florida police officers not only remain on pay, but are protected by their unions and retire to public pensions. The Herald-Tribune points out systemic problems in Florida which need to be addressed in order to improve the quality of the state’s police departments; suggestions which also apply elsewhere: eliminating patronage, enforcing the laws which exist with regard to police officers, correcting a too cozy relationship between the police and the local State’s Attorney’s office which declines to charge when valid offenses are reported, and stop the hampering of internal police investigations and reviews. A lot of this series explains why your local police officers are seldom brought up on criminal charges despite wrongdoing which would land your average citizen in court. The reports are downloadable as pdfs.