From Disaster To Sheer, Unmitigated Calamity: The Story Of An Illinois Senate Seat

It’s pretty much run-of-the-mill these days, of course, for a state attorney general to seek the death penalty for a particular defendant.

It’s not run-of-the-mill for a state attorney general to seek the death penalty for an innocent man.

And when that state attorney general–or former state attorney general, in this case–is a selection to fill the Senate seat vacated by the President-elect of the United States, his past decisions rightly become a story:

Former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pick to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, is no stranger to controversy.

Public fury over the governor’s alleged misconduct has masked the once lively debate over Burris’ decision to continue to prosecute, despite the objections of one of his top prosecutors, the wrong man for a high-profile murder case.

While state attorney general in 1992, Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The crime took place in 1983.

But by 1992, another man had confessed to the crime, and Burris’ own deputy attorney general was pleading with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Burris refused. He was running for governor.

“Anybody who understood this case wouldn’t have voted for Burris,” Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told ProPublica. Indeed, Burris lost that race, and two other attempts to become governor.

Question 1: Did Blagojevich know this when he chose Burris?

Question 2: If so, what was he thinking when he made the appointment? He could not possibly have thought that the news would have remained hidden after all.

Question 3: If not, what kind of vetting went on in selecting Burris?

Question 4: Gosh, wouldn’t it have been much, much, much better if the Democrats in the Illinois state legislature had allowed for the enactment of a law early on in the story of this scandal over Rod Blagojevich’s misdeeds that would have allowed for a special election for the Senate seat, instead of inflicting upon us the shenanigans that we are going through right now?