You’re probably read in the news that Jason Austin, accused cop killer of, had his charges dropped by the State’s Attorney Office. This is a miracle for any number of reasons.
1) He is accused of killing a cop. Cop killers are given NO BREAKS…in fact, all the rules are broken when it comes to their interrogation and case handling. Now, I know cops who would read that might say “Why no! We would guarantee that we pull of a pristine investigation in order to get a conviction.” To which I reply, sure…tell that to Andrew Wilson.
2) Prosecutors, god bless ’em, rarely exercise the sort of judgment that lets them dismiss cases. Call it ego, call it hubris, call it competitive drive…whatever, but I’ve had prosecutors look me right in the eyes, tell me they have no case, they’re going to lose, take it trial and watch it all happen like they said. Well, Ms. or Mr. Prosecutor, if that was all a waste of our time and resources, why did you do it? Exercise a little discretion.
3) This was a big media case. You’ve seen the coverage. Off duty police officer and girlfriend robbed and murdered in their car. Cop gets off a 911 call before he expires describing his assailant. It’s a tragedy, no doubt. But with the papers, talk radio, police and public baying for blood, to get a dismissal means one thing and one thing only.
They actually had the wrong guy.
But here’s why this bugs me. Clearly, David Weiner, attorney for Jason Austin, presented some compelling evidence that they had the wrong guy. The car the police had recorded leaving the scene on a pod camera (those blinking blue boxes on telephone poles), didn’t really match Austin’s. Plus, Austin’s car was in the shop at the time. Then, there was the supposed “admission” that Austin made about committing a robbery to a friend the night of the murder. Now, I don’t know the source of the person who told police he said it, but I’m going to bet a Andrew Jackson it was someone arrested that day who felt like they could “help” the police by giving a statement.
All of this fell apart like tissue paper. Dick Devine and the State’s Attorney’s office isn’t going to embarrass themselves bringing a shaky case…when the media spotlight is on. But when it isn’t…and trust me, the VAST majority of cases processed through Cook County get no coverage whatsoever…this sort of discretion is harder to come by.
If only prosecutors acted like all their moves and motivations would be exposed to the harsh light of media coverage in EVERY case, maybe more of my clients would get a fair shake.