Source: Seattle Times

CHICAGO — For nearly 26 years, the affidavit was sealed in an envelope and stored in a locked box, tucked away with the lawyer’s passport and will. Sometimes he stashed the box in his bedroom closet, other times under his bed.

Then, about two years ago, Dale Coventry, the box’s owner, got a call from his former colleague, W. Jamie Kunz. Both were once public defenders. They hadn’t talked in a decade.

“We’re both getting on in years,” Kunz said. “We ought to do something with that affidavit to make sure it’s not wasted in case we both leave this good Earth.”

Coventry assured him it was in a safe place. He found it in the fireproof metal box, but didn’t read it. He didn’t need to. He was reminded of the case every time he heard that a wronged prisoner had been freed.

In January, Kunz called again. This time, he had news: A man both lawyers had represented long ago in the murder of two police officers, Andrew Wilson, had died in prison.

Kunz asked Coventry to get the affidavit.

“It’s in a sealed envelope,” Coventry said.

“Open it,” Kunz said.

And so, Coventry began reading aloud the five-line declaration the lawyers had written more than a quarter-century before:

An innocent man was behind bars. His name was Alton Logan. He did not kill a security guard in a McDonald’s restaurant in January 1982.

“In fact,” the document said, “another person was responsible.”

A confession, a catch

They knew, because Andrew Wilson told them: He did it.

But that was the catch.

Lawyer-client privilege is not complete; most states allow attorneys to reveal confidences to prevent a death, serious bodily harm or criminal fraud. But this case didn’t offer that kind of exception.

So when Wilson told his lawyers that he, and not Logan, had killed the guard, they felt powerless, unable to do anything with that knowledge. And for decades, they said nothing.

As they recall, Wilson — who was facing charges in the February 1982 murders of police officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien — was even a bit gleeful about the McDonald’s shooting. To Kunz, he seemed like a child who had been caught doing something naughty.

“I was surprised at how unabashed he was in telling us,” he said. Logan had been charged with the McDonald’s shooting that left one guard dead and another injured. Another man, Edgar Hope, also was arrested and he was assigned a public defender, Marc Miller.

Miller said he was stunned when his client announced he didn’t know Logan and had never seen him before their arrests. According to Miller, Hope was persistent: “You need to tell his attorney he represents an innocent man.”

Hope went a step further, Miller said: He told him Andrew Wilson was his right-hand man — “the guy who guards my back” — and urged the lawyer to confirm that with his street friends. He did.

Miller said he eventually told Logan’s lawyer his client was innocent, but offered no details.

First, though, he approached Kunz, his fellow public defender and former partner.

“You think your life’s difficult now?” Miller recalls telling Kunz. “My understanding is that your client Andrew Wilson is the shooter in the McDonald’s murder.”

Coventry and Kunz brought Wilson to the jail law library and this, they said, was when they confronted him and he made his unapologetic confession. They didn’t press for details. “None of us had any doubt,” Coventry said.

And, he added, it wasn’t just Wilson’s word. Firearms tests, according to court records, linked a shotgun shell found at McDonald’s with a weapon that police found at the beauty parlor where Wilson lived. The slain police officers’ guns also were discovered there.