The Alton Logan Case: Wrongful Conviction


It is important to note that the specific topic to be analyzed is Alton Logan’s wrongful conviction case. The relevant historical information about the separate issue is that Alton Logan was unjustly convicted of a homicide he did not execute and spent 26 years in prison. The actual killer confessed to his two attorneys in March 1982, but they were bound by their client’s loyalty, the attorney-client privilege, and Illinois ethics requirements not to share his confession (Khan, 2019). Both the death of the actual murderer, Andrew Wilson and Wilson’s oral request to his attorneys in 1982 that they release personal records if he died to free Alton Logan (Smith, 2020). He was granted a new trial after a team of legal professionals from the Cook County Public Defender’s Office obtained a post-conviction evidentiary hearing. Alton was granted a small bond by a fair and courageous judge, James M. Schreier, and on April 18, 2008, his friends raised the thousand dollars required to reconcile him with his family (Woollley, 2019). Thus, it should be noted that Alton had been imprisoned since February 7, 1982.

In the case of policy-related issues, the Attorney General’s Office of Illinois announced that all charges against Alton had been dropped, and his long nightmare had ended on September 4, 2008. With the addition of First Chair Homicide Task Force legal professional Susan Smith at the time, the crew was once again prepared for trial. The underlying theoretical framework is that prosecuting individuals without adequate evidence or involvement of the relevant participants is a big challenge to justice. Emerging evidence is necessary for making the right decisions, especially in criminal cases where the suspect’s life is at risk. Thus, Alton Logan’s wrongful conviction resulted from neglecting evidence, prioritizing eyewitnesses over forensic evidence, and non-adherence to ethics rules.

Literature Review

The given literature review will primarily focus on three key issues and policies. These include neglecting evidence, eyewitnesses against forensic evidence, and ethics rule regarding client confidentiality. Alton Logan’s case is a clear demonstration of a major miscarriage of justice when the wrongful procedural steps could have prevented the problem. Thus, three new policies are proposed where evidence is not neglected after an arrest, eyewitnesses are not allowed when forensic evidence is available, and client privilege must be protected.

Neglecting Evidence

The first policy is that police and prosecutors must not neglect new evidence about potential suspects. Two security personnel at a McDonald’s restaurant at 11421 South Halsted in Chicago were gunned down on January 11, 1982, around 8:10 p.m. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office employed both. When a tall man changed orders suspiciously, a cashier called the guards. Another man stormed in and shot one of the guards, Lloyd Wyckliffe, with a sawed-off shotgun (Woollley, 2019). The tall man pushed Alvin Thompson down, pulled out a revolver, disarmed Thompson, and fired a close-range shot at him (Starling, 2020). Thompson was only injured because he was paying close attention to his assailant and shifted his head and raised his arm when the shot was fired. The two assailants fled, leaving only the gun.

Edgar Hope was apprehended about a month later for the murder of a Chicago police officer aboard a passenger bus. Hope was found in possession of the murdered officer’s revolver. Hope was identified by McDonald’s staff and charged with murder. Alton Logan was arrested in early February 1982 after McDonald’s employees identified him. Based on physical evidence, Logan was not linked to the McDonald’s shootings (Mushin, 2018). Physical evidence linked Andrew Wilson, a known associate of Edgar Hope (Tigar, 2018). In February 1982, police raided a beauty salon where Wilson had lived above, looking for Wilson in connection with the shooting of two police officers. The revolvers of the two deceased cops, as well as a sawed-off shotgun, were discovered in the beauty parlor.

A ballistics test carried out on February 13, 1982, matched the specifications of the short gun discovered at McDonald’s. Lieutenant Jon Burge, the officer in command, was informed of the match’s outcome. He was the same police officer who was later dismissed by the Chicago Police Department for tormenting suspects and who was outlawed in 2008 by the US Attorney’s Office. The move was due to the officer lying under oath when he denied knowing about police torture (Woollley, 2019). The next day, after the ballistics report, Burge was busy tormenting Andrew Wilson, who was arrested for killing two police officers (Starling, 2020). Despite the ballistics match, Wilson was not investigated further by the police or the FBI concerning the McDonald’s shootings (Khan, 2019). Despite the ballistics match, Wilson was not investigated further in connection with the McDonald’s shootings by any security agency.

Alton Logan and Edgar Hope were jointly tried in 1983. Both were found guilty of murder; Hope was sentenced to death, while Alton was sentenced to life in prison after two jurors voted against it (Starling, 2020). Both were allowed new trials due to prosecutorial errors in using victim impact evidence at the guilt/innocence stage (Woollley, 2019). As a result of a direct appeal, Hope was the first to receive a new trial. Alton had to wait until a post-conviction petition appealed to get a new trial for the same reason (Khan, 2019). Both were convicted again in their separate second trials and received the same sentences as before (Jirard, 2018). Alton’s attorney was barred from presenting evidence at the first trial that the shotgun used at McDonald’s was discovered alongside the guns of the police officers killed by Andrew Wilson.

The evidence was admitted at the second trial, but other evidence connecting Wilson and Hope was excluded, as was one of McDonald’s witnesses’ testimony. It was provided when the case was first heard that a photograph of Andrew Wilson looked like Alton Brown (Khan, 2019). Alton filed another post-conviction petition after his direct appeal of the second trial was denied. Assistant Public Defender Erica Reddick of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was assigned.

On one the basis of the literature and information provided, it is clear that key evidence elements were deliberately neglected. Neglecting and dismissing critical evidence was the prime catalyzer of the wrongful conviction. The lack of system-based incentives for the prosecutors to consider after an arrest meant that the new suspect was not properly investigated. The driving force is to prioritize proceeding with the first suspect until the end rather than switching from the existing suspect to a new one.


The second policy is that eyewitness accounts must not be allowed in situations where forensic study is available. As she learned more about the case, Erica Reddick was convinced Alton was innocent. Alton being accused of committing the crime with Edgar Hope made no sense; Alton and Hope did not know each other, and Andrew Wilson would have been involved in a shooting alongside Hope (Woollley, 2019). In early 2000, Chicago-Kent Law School Professor Richard Kling obtained a remand of Hope’s post-conviction petition from the Illinois Supreme Court, citing new evidence of Hope’s guiltlessness (Tigar, 2018). Although one key witness stated that the man with the shotgun was Andrew Wilson, not Alton, most of this evidence was unhelpful to Logan (Mushin, 2018). Following that remand, Erica requested that another attorney, the Post-Conviction Unit Supervisor, take over the case (Sowter, 2020). Erica asked a member of Alton’s defense, the Post-Conviction Unit Supervisor, to join her as co-counsel after the remand, and was agreed to. When the new attorney first met Alton in Stateville prison, he was struck by his sense of humor and belief that he would be cleared of the alleged crime.

The new defense team began an extensive investigation that included locating and questioning all employees at McDonald’s on January 11, 1982, searching for potential new witnesses, getting police and McDonald’s reports, and reviewing Alton’s past attorneys’ trial files. The legal team included investigator Noel Zupancic and paralegal Christine Komperda. The defense team met with Alton’s former attorneys, interviewed Gail Hilliard, now a bus driver (Woollley, 2019), a favorable witness found by Professor Kling, and interviewed Tom Bennett, a detective on the case who had since become an Assistant State’s Attorney and then a defense attorney (Khan, 2019; Woollley, 2019). Another detective on the investigation, Charles Grunhard, told Tom Bennett in the 1990s (Dare, 2020). Jon Burge told Grunhard that the police had arrested and detained the wrong suspect in the McDonald’s case, and the real killer was Andrew Wilson (Bashir, 2019; Khan, 2019). Alton’s counsel got Bennett’s affidavit as an exhibit of the problems they made (Mushin, 2018). The defense also spoke with a McDonald’s cashier’s ex-boyfriend, identified as Alton.

The cashier’s evidence at trial about how she came to identify Alton was disputed by an affidavit. The cashier, one of the State’s three identification witnesses in both cases, told investigators she did not recognize either of the shooters at first. She never said she saw Logan and Hope together before the shootings in the first two trials (Rahangdale, 2019). During Alton’s second trial, however, the cashier claimed to have seen Hope and Alton together on multiple occasions and testified to that occurrence. Since the gunshot victims were sheriff’s deputies not on duty at the time of the shooting, detailed police reports and street files should have been retained until the arrests (Woollley,2019). However, the defense counsel and the State, according to the police report, left significant gaps.

Professor Kling and the Logan team attempted but failed to bring Jon Burge back from Florida to testify about the absent reports, but the request was denied each time. All of this occurred, although former Police Superintendent Richard Brzezcek said at a hearing that street files, in this case, should have existed (Sowter, 2020). Burge should also have been aware of any police reports (Jirard, 2018). Grand jury transcripts and interview reports on three brothers who relocated in 1982 were released by the State (Bashir, 2019). According to the brothers, Edgar Hope and others made remarks shortly after the McDonald’s shootings, implicating Andrew Wilson with the shootings.

A move before the Chief Judge prevented the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office from the future representation of clients involved in the case, saving the judge from a future lawsuit. The Special Prosecutor’s probe of Burge by his investigators was assigned to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (Tigar, 2018). Before being reassigned to James M. Schreier, another highly consummate judge, the case’s judge changed multiple times (Jirard, 2018). Meanwhile, Lagon’s team questioned former and present Chicago Police officers to unearth the absent police reports (Sowter, 2020). Pleadings were filed in 2006 and 2007 in response to Alton’s plead for a detailed forensic examination of the shotgun shell found at McDonald’s in the hopes of finding Andrew Wilson’s DNA (Bashir, 2019). Brendan Max, a Forensic Science Division Assistant Public Defender, joined the Logan team to work on these requests and oversee the motion (Sowter, 2020). The hearing was set for December 2007, but the case’s trajectory was altered by new development.

In short, the examples make it clear that eyewitnesses play a key role in the judicial process, but their reliability is not infallible. Firstly, eyewitness accounts alone should be subject to proper investigation and analysis due to inherent flaws. Secondly, forensic evidence requires some form of prioritization against eyewitness accounts. Thus, being biasedly selective with evidence cannot be justified because all of them have significant weight in the court case until proven otherwise.

Ethics Rule and Client Confidentiality

The third policy is that the attorney-client privilege needs a more incentivized way to ensure that innocent individuals are not wrongfully convicted. When Andrew Wilson died (Rahangdale, 2019), Lagon’s staff discovered this throughout the research and decided to contact his 1982 attorneys, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz (Benbrook, 2020). Wilson was in the hands of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) afterlife imprisonment following his second trial, and one of his subsequent attorneys had urged the team not to speak to him (Sowter, 2020). On November 29, 2007, a member of Alton’s defense team was riding the train home from work when he noticed Andrew Wilson’s portrait on the top page of the Chicago Reader, which said that he had died earlier that month (Myers, 2018). Following the discovery, Judge Schreier was asked to grant an injunction.

Dale Coventry has asked to present a case to Judge Schreier. Dale Coventry asked Judge Schreier to hear his case and issue an order authorizing disclosure of what Wilson had informed him (Jirard, 2018). It was decided that the best way to bring hidden information about the case to light would be through a court order (Dare, 2020). Judge Schreier convened a meeting in chambers with all parties involved and requested that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office provide a report.

On January 11, 2008, the Attorney General answered that any disclosure should be disclosed to both them and the defense, and everyone agreed. Alton Lagon was innocent in a declaration sworn by Coventry and Kunz on March 17, 1982.A document stating that information about Alton Logan, who had been convicted of the murder. Lloyd Wickliffe was not responsible (Myers, 2018). The information contained in the document was highly privileged and admissible before the court.

According to Andrea Lyon and Kunz, Andrew Wilson was the person in possession shotgun at the McDonald’s shootings, who received information about him in March 1982. They questioned Wilson about it, and he admitted to being the perpetrator. Wilson was also happy that someone had been arrested for a crime he had committed (Bashir, 2019). Wilson’s attorneys were primarily concerned about preventing Wilson from earning the death penalty (Jirard, 2018). As a result, they encouraged Wilson to keep the information to himself. According to both of them, Logan was charged with a capital offense and faced the death penalty for a crime committed by another person (Myers, 2018). They decided to write the affidavit so they wouldn’t be accused of falsifying the material if it was later made public.

According to Coventry, Andrew Wilson consented at two separate times that the information about McDonald’s might be disseminated after Wilson’s death (Dare, 2020). Over the protests of the Counsel General and Hope’s present attorney, Marc Miller, who had been Edgar Hope’s main attorney in 1982, declared at a similar deposition on March 10, 2008 (Prakash and Tiwari, 2020; Myers, 2018). Hope told Miller in March 1982 that Logan had nothing to do with the McDonald’s shooting and that Hope had never met Logan before they were detained (Bashir, 2019). Miller was also meant to inform Logan’s lawyer of these details, and everyone acknowledged Andrew Wilson as Hope’s right-hand guy (Jirard, 2018). Miller also testified that Hope informed him that his neighbors would confirm everything and that Hope offered him aliases for several of his neighbors (Benbrook, 2020). Judge Schreier decided to convene an evidentiary hearing on Logan’s real innocence on April 18, 2008, following Miller’s testimony and announced that he would write Logan and Hope into court.

The case examples and literature showcase the attorney-client privilege’s inherently restrictive structure. In other words, a poor set of mechanisms is built into preventing wrongful convictions. It is similar to the first policy assessment, where the lack of strong incentives to encourage to act ethically resulted in Alton Logan’s wrongful conviction. Thus, more restructuring is required in the attorney-client privilege to strengthen the judicial process.

Policy Critique and Implications

Summary of Assessments

In sum, Alton Logan’s case reveals the importance of preventing a wrongful conviction. The existing data and theory suggest that the case neglected valid pieces of evidence, especially after the arrest. No incentives were given in order to gather as much evidence as needed. In addition, the current policies need to recognize that eyewitness accounts can be unreliable and flawed. Therefore, a more accurately weighted approach must be put in place when a piece of forensic evidence is available. The existing frameworks also have a weak point in terms of disregarding client confidentiality and ethics rules.

Policy Changes Needed

  • Neglecting evidence. Police and prosecutors should not neglect evidence, especially if new evidence is obtained after an arrest of a new suspect and evidence points to a new suspect proposing. Investigative and prosecution teams should investigate new evidence creating a team/task force that reviews all serious crimes to ensure all leads are appropriately pursued. As a result, any reliable information or evidence that was not captured during arrest or preliminary should as well be allowed during any stage of the case (Smith, 2020). Criminal charges have a sensitive implication on the social conduct and well-being of communities. While the courts exist to provide justice, they should be fair in addressing the issues and rights of all participants to the latter. For instance, in the case, there were many missing links, yet Alton Logan spent 26 years of his life in prison. It is clear that the investigative agencies, the prosecution team, and earlier legal teams involved were not concerned about justice, even with the adequate evidence needed to acquit the suspect. A lot of reliable evidence was neglected in Alton’s case, which prompts experts to question the ethics and professionalism of the investigation and prosecution teams. The inclusion of new evidence should be effected at any stage of the hearing as long as it does not interfere with the privacy of the complainant or defendant.
  • Eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses should not be allowed in cases where forensic study is applicable. The involvement of eyewitnesses in cases where forensic studies can be carried out is not effective in criminal cases. The concept of relying on eyewitnesses in the case of Alton Logan cost him 26 years of his life. Despite pleading to have a forensic study on the gun found at the crime scene, the request was not granted, but the prosecution insisted on the witnesses. However, after cross-examination, it was established that the main witness, who was also a casualty, did not have any reliable information from his testimony. It was practically impossible for an officer to identify a person by just looking at them for one second in a terrifying situation. The involvement of eyewitnesses in a case should also be subject to thorough cross-examination to establish the ideal validity of their testimonies (Oyakhire, 2021). In such a crime scene, as mentioned in Alton’s case, the police should have established all reliable and willing witnesses. They should have also relied on intelligence services to identify the rightful suspects and impose the due charges.
  • Client confidentiality. Ethics rule refers to the attorney-client privilege, which protects most communications between clients and their lawyers proposing. Regulations should be made on the attorney-client privilege to allow attorneys to come forward to prevent the imprisonment of innocent individuals like Alton. For instance, Massachusetts allows attorneys to come forward and prevent innocent suspects from unintended sentences (Smith, 2020). Its main advantage is that it protects innocent individuals from punishments for crimes that have not been committed. However, clients’ trust could be lost, and client confidentiality for this miscarriage of justice, and both attorneys knew Alton was an innocent man, but they could legally do nothing. The attorneys’ actions, although bound by the law, have huge and lasting implications on their careers. The attorney-client privilege should be expounded to include only sensitive domains (Myers, 2018). However, in cases where such information risks the life of another, the privileges should be revoked by law.


In the case of implementing the proposed policies, one should integrate them on a judicial and legislative basis. The most important element is making them practice with the goal of preventing wrongful convictions. The implications will be manifested in the elimination or minimization of jailing a person before the charges are dropped. Some form of the additional stage needs to be incorporated to ensure that an individual is not imprisoned without ensuring that the evidence provided is clear.

Future Research Needs

It is evident that more research is necessary when it comes to preventing wrongful convictions in the judicial process. Firstly, it is critical to provide more accurate theoretical frameworks in regards to designing a system where evidence is not neglected after an arrest and during the entire process. Secondly, professionals and experts in the field need to reassess the reliability of eyewitness accounts when it comes to other forms of evidence (Rahangdale, 2019). Thirdly, ethics rules and client confidentiality must be analyzed further in terms of methods of preventing the violations.


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