Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Barack Obama Rejects Roland Burris, but he Should have Rejected him Long ago

On Tuesday, Roland Burris - the man chosen by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to succeed Barack Obama in the US Senate - proclaimed that Mr. Blagojevich is "innocent until proven guilty".

One would assume that only an individual like Mr. Burris with a seemingly untainted resume is capable of issuing such an altruistic statement like that.

Presumably, Barack Obama must have sensed these fine qualities in Mr. Burris when he endorsed his candidacy for Illinois governor in 2002.

Obama even praised Mr. Burris on Tuesday, calling him "a good man and a fine public servant", but adding that - like his Democratic colleagues in the senate - he could not possibly accept Mr. Burris' appointment to the senate, since his appointment was made by Gov. Blagojevich, who allegedly tried to sell Barack Obama's senate seat.

However, it should be noted that Mr. Burris' integrity is now coming under scrutiny in light of the fact that as Illinois Attorney General - in 1992 - he sought the death penalty for a completely innocent man:

From Pro Publica:

While state attorney general in 1992, [Roland] Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The crime took place in 1983.

But by 1992, another man
had confessed to the crime, and Burris’ own deputy attorney general was pleading with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Burris refused. He was running for governor.

"Anybody who understood this case wouldn’t have voted for Burris," Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told ProPublica. Indeed, Burris lost that race, and three other attempts to become governor.

Burris’ role in the Cruz case was "indefensible and in defiance of common sense and common decency," Warden said. "There was obvious evidence that [Cruz] was innocent."

Deputy attorney general Mary Brigid Kenney agreed, and eventually resigned rather than continue to prosecute Cruz.

Once Burris assigned Kenney to the case in 1991, she became convinced that Cruz was innocent, a victim of what she believed was prosecutorial misconduct. She sent Burris a memo reporting that the jury convicted Cruz without knowing that Brian Dugan, a repeat sex offender and murderer, had confessed to the crime. Burris never met with Kenney to discuss a new trial for Cruz, Kenney told ProPublica.

"This is something the attorney general should have been concerned about," Kenney, now an assistant public guardian in Cook County, said in an interview. "I knew the prosecutor’s job was not merely to secure conviction but to ensure justice was done."

Kenney was not alone in her beliefs. Prior to Cruz’ 1985 trial, the lead detective in the case resigned in protest over prosecutors handling of the case...

And rather than argue Burris’ case before the state supreme court, Kenney also stepped down.

"What I took away was that [Burris] wasn’t going to do anything to seem soft on crime," Kenney said. "He didn’t have the guts."

In her resignation letter, Kenney claimed Burris had "seen fit to ignore the evidence in this case."

"I cannot sit idly by as this office continues to pursue the unjust prosecution of Rolando Cruz," she wrote. "I realized that I was being asked to help execute an innocent man"...

State prosecutors carried on with the prosecution, even after DNA evidence in 1995 excluded Cruz as the victim's rapist and linked somebody else—sex offender Brian Dugan–to the crime.

Eventually, prosecutors’ case hit a wall. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed Cruz's conviction and granted him a third trial. (The court declared that the trial judge in the case had improperly excluded Dugan’s confession, and thus compromised Cruz's defense.) In the new trial, Cruz was acquitted....

In late 1995, Cruz finally walked free after serving 11 years on death row for a crime he did not commit... Dugan is
scheduled to stand trial for the crime next year, 26 years after it was committed.

Mr. Burris willingly sent an innocent man to death row in order to further his own political ambitions, but this did not deter Barack Obama from endorsing Mr. Burris' candidacy for governor of Illinois.

But now that Mr. Blagojevich has appointed Roland Burris to fill Obama's vacant senate seat, suddenly, Barack Obama refuses to endorse him.

Question: Why is Barack Obama rejecting Mr. Burris' senate bid on the account of Rod Blogajevich's alleged misconduct when Mr. Burris' own misconduct did not deter Obama from endorsing him in 2002?

Mr. Blagojevich may be guilty as hell, but he never sent an innocent man to death row!