But the unusual meetings have been met with criticism that the veteran prosecutor is trying to put to rest longstanding questions about how he has handled the controversial case. R. Bruce Dold, the editor of the Tribune's editorial page, said that he could not recall a prosecutor coming to the paper to preview a case.But the Trib reports that Birkett's move may be risky:
Legal experts say the meetings raise ethical issues, as well as some criminal law issues for Birkett, who is bound by the state's rules on the professional conduct of attorneys.
Birkett, who inherited the case when he was elected in 1996, said he had asked for the meetings because he wanted to "set the record straight" about the role he and his office have played in the case.
Charles Rose, a former prosecutor who teaches ethics at Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla., said, "Sounds like he's trying to spin you before the case goes to trial, either for political gain or to affect the jury pool."The meetings were arranged by Dan Curry, Birkett's political consultant.
Bob Cummins, a former chairman of the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board who for three decades has lectured on ethics to lawyers and judges, said Birkett's efforts "may be politically savvy, but in my judgment are professionally stupid, if not worse."
"Maybe my ideas are old-fashioned, but aren't we supposed to try cases in the courtroom? Isn't that where you demonstrate the evidence?" said Cummins. "If Joe Birkett were my client, I would tell him to fire the guy who set this up and get a new political advisor."
Updated From Comments:
Funny, the guy who says I ought to be fired is a law partner/friend of Tom Cronin, a man who Joe Birkett defeated for SA about 75 percent to 25 percent a few years back. Interesting that the Trib didn't disclose that obvious axe to grind in their story. -- Dan Curry