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Opinion: State's attorney yet to apologize for Koschman case

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez remained cold and unwavering to the end.

Through her spokesperson Sally Daly, Alvarez issued a prepared statement explaining her decision to pay Nanci Koschman a modest sum in settlement of Mrs. Koschman’s lawsuit against Alvarez and her office for helping — as we alleged in the suit — to conceal the facts about the death of Mrs. Koschman’s son, David:

“The costs associated with this litigation would greatly exceed the amount of this allotted settlement. Therefore, the settlement presented the most efficient and cost-effective solution to bring this matter to a conclusion.”

Is that all?

OPINION

The state’s attorney’s prepared statement might have included an apology for the role her office played for repeatedly not pursuing for years the truth that David was the victim of a criminal assault by R. J. Vanecko, a member of the politically powerful Daley family.

Alvarez could have added that she was wrong when she said, in 2011, that David Koschman “was the aggressor” in the confrontation that led to David’s death and added that it would be “unethical” to ask a grand jury to charge Vanecko in the homicide.

She might have acknowledged that, at the very least, she made an error in judgment in aggressively opposing Mrs. Koschman’s petition to have a special prosecutor appointed to re-evaluate the evidence and make an independent determination. And she could have admitted that she was wrong to say that the prospects of prosecuting Vanecko were “dim.”

Out of respect for the people of Cook County, the criminal justice system and Mrs. Koschman, the state’s attorney could have expressed her office’s gratitude to the appointed special prosecutor for bringing Vanecko to justice, convicting him and having him sentenced to prison for the death of David Koschman.

She could have recognized that the findings of the special prosecutor with regard to the state’s attorney’s office — particularly those concerning former State’s Attorney Darren O’Brien’s role in the decade-long cover-up — were cause for condemnation, rather than silence.

Alvarez could have vowed to seek the release of the complete special prosecutor’s investigation so that the entire record of this sordid affair would be exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny and the judgment of the Cook County electorate.

Alvarez could have wished Nanci Koschman well and expressed her hope that the settlement money might contribute in some small way toward softening the pain Mrs. Koschman suffered from losing her son and then seeing his good name slandered in the official record.

She could have thanked Nanci Koschman for her extraordinary service to the people of Cook County.

Thanks to Nanci Koschman are very much in order. We came to know her as a courageous mother whose personal quest for justice came at considerable cost. She did not have to petition the court for a special prosecutor. No one would have second guessed her if she had chosen to remain in the background. Instead, she stepped forward.

Mrs. Koschman taught us that a single person — if she has truth on her side — can take on powerful, entrenched forces and prevail. With characteristic understatement, Mrs. Koschman puts it this way: “I think I’ve accomplished a lot. Everybody knows what happened. I found out how it happened, who did it. And I found out there are repercussions if you hit somebody and run.”

Nanci Koschman, in sharp contrast to Alvarez, is a quiet hero whose unflinching quest for the truth has reminded everyone that we can’t allow the quality of justice to depend on the wealth or political “clout” of the parties involved. The most powerful among us deserve no different treatment than the most ordinary.

Unfortunately for all of us, this message did not register with our elected State’s Attorney.

Locke E. Bowman is the Executive Director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern School of Law. G. Flint Taylor is a founding partner of the People’s Law Office. Bowman and Taylor, together with Alexa Van Brunt, represented Nanci Koschman.