Dear Editors and Copley Press,
I am writing in response to your headline story in today's Beacon News, entitled: "Technicality sets killer free after 2 years." The first paragraph of the article notes that Sakii Wahiid was released from prison after being previously convicted of murder "due to a technicality, officials said."
It seems that when I write these letters to your publication from time to time, I must first address the fact that I am that most reviled creature, a "criminal defense attorney." I have noted in the past, and I believe that it bears repeating, reviled, that is, until your son, daughter, husband or wife is arrested. But I digress.
Your terming the right to a speedy trial as a "technicality," based largely, I assume, on the position of the State's Attorney's Office (who, after all, is responsible ultimately for the error), is an afront to both the Constitution of the United States and our own Constitution of the State of Illinois, not to mention the intelligence of your readers. Should anyone care to look, the right to a speedy trial is contained within the Sixth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, along with the right to a public trial and an impartial jury, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you after being informed of the nature of the charges, the right to subpoena your own witnesses to testify on your behalf, and the right to counsel. Are all of these constitutional rights, guaranteed to the citizens of the United States in 1791, "technicalities?"
Further, our own Constitution of the State of Illinois, Article 1, Section 8, guarantees these same rights and adds in the right to appear and defend oneself in person. In addition, and of major importance here, the right to a speedy trial has been statutorily guaranteed by the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure at least since 1963, when the officials you quoted as calling this a technicality were in knee pants. The right to a speedy trial was the law and a constitutional guarantee when Attorney Tom McCullough uttered his now-famous "OK" and it has never been the duty of the defense attorney to aid the State in a denial of a client's rights, constitutional, statutory or otherwise. And it never will be. Experienced prosecutors know this.
A person convicted of a vicious murder has been set free. A jury heard evidence and convicted him. Those twelve jurors must wonder why they spent a good deal of their time and effort participating in the criminal justice process, only to see such a turn of events. But why is it easier to blame the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court for releasing the defendant on a "technicality?" Why are we so willing to absolve our prosecutors, whose duty it is to bring defendants to trial within the statutory time limits? With all of the recent major press news of innocent people being sent to Death Row based on prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate and false evidence, how dare we not demand that the system work the way it is supposed to?
Kathleen Colton, Attorney at Law