When the case of the shooting of a Chicago police officer in 2012 came to the chambers of Cook County Circuit Judge Thaddeus Wilson, the court saw something that it said was obvious to anyone who has done any practice in the criminal law: the statement of the mother of the suspect Paris Sadler was free of any corrections or edits. Since the mother Talaina Cureton said that she had edited and corrected the statement prepared by Assistant Cook County state’s attorney Joseph Lattanzio, it was a curious fact. However, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, long criticized for her policies such as prosecuting citizens who dare to video police in public, fought to block any effort to reexamine the statement and denied that her office omitted critical information. Now, it appears that one of those videotapes that Alvarez hates, existed showing Cureton editing the statement. Lattanzio has been fired. However, once again, without the videotape, Alvarez’s office would have likely succeeded in blocking the challenge and protecting the prosecutorial misconduct.
Chicago Officer Del Pearson was severely injured but survived the shooting. The revolver was recovered in the basement but the defense moved to quash Sadler’s arrest and suppress evidence questioned the accuracy of a witness statement. Lattanzio insisted that no corrections were made. Judge Wilson expressed dismay: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen any statement taken by an assistant state’s attorney … where it is perfect with no edits or corrections.”
Then it was revealed that Cureton had secretly taken an iPad recording of her interview with prosecutors the day after the shooting.
Alvarez has continued to struggle with those videotapes that she has fought against in police abuse cases. In June, her office had to indict three Chicago police officers and a Glenview officer for lying on the stand in a routine drug case after a video contradicted them. That video was taken from one of the cruisers as opposed to a citizen.
What is most striking in these cases of prosecutorial abuse is that they often occur in relatively strong cases like this one. Prosecutors will sometimes feel more pressure in the high profile “easy” cases to secure convictions. However, this case also reflects the fact that most cases rely on the ability of the defense to prove misconduct without a videotape. Without that videotape, Alvarez’s office likely would have prevailed on appeal in saying that the absence of edits is purely speculative and that the court needs to give the prosecutors the benefit of the doubt in such cases against the word of a “biased” mother. Notably, this was not the main prosecutor in the case and there is no evidence that the other prosecutors were aware of the failure to include the edits or corrections.
Alvarez stated that “Any law enforcement officer who lies under oath has defied that public trust and is subject to the same legal consequences as any citizen would be.” However there is no word at this time whether he will be prosecuted for false statements in the case.