For once I agree completely with the Tribune’s editorial board. The details around the release of James Ealy definitely depict a justice system that can only be described as a horror show. For background on the case you can read this. The Tribune and the rest of the Chicago have failed to ask the real question that needs to be asked. How is a detective who has more than a single case tossed because he has used unconstitutional methods to obtain evidence still allowed to stay on the Chicago Police force? If any one has let down the public and jeopardized our safety it has been the Chicago Police Department by allowing Detective Ralph Vucko continue to work despite his propensity to use other than constitutional methods to obtain evidence and confessions. The bulk of the blame throughout the Chicago media has been centered on the Illinois Appellate Court because they overturned a case involving a guilty suspect. The facts involved in the case seem pretty easy to understand and involve classic Chicago Police methods and dishonesty. Despite comments by of prosecutors and police involved in the case there are three major reasons why this case needed to be overturned.
Police Account: The night following the murder two detectives went to Ealy’s mother’s apartment and “requested” that he accompany them to the station to answer questions based on his status as a witness in the case.
Reality: The two detectives retrieved Ealy from his mother’s apartment because they believed he was a suspect and wanted to question him without his mother being in the room; thus, they believed he was a suspect prior to entering his mother’s apartment and were obligated to treat Ealy in the fashion they would treat all suspects. Ealy was on bond for a rape charge at the time of the murders and at the time the police went to his mother’s apartment. The police in this case wanted the Illinois Appellate Court to believe they went to seek voluntary cooperation as a witness from a man out on bail for a rape charge. This defies all logic and was a contributing factor to the overturning of Ealy’s conviction.
Police Account: Ealy was put into an interview room when they arrived at Area 4 Police Headquarters and questioned willingly for 18 hours.
Reality: Ealy was put into an interrogation room in Area 4 Police Headquarters and interrogated for 18 hours about his role in the 4 murders. During this time he was denied access to food, water, sleep, and his mother. The police readily admit that Ealy’s mother had arrived at Area 4 sometime after Ealy and in fact say that their conflicting accounts of Ealy’s whereabouts at the time of the murder contributed to their suspicion about his involvement in the crimes. Well, if his mother made it to Area 4 it is more than reasonable to believe she would have made inquiries to see her son. We know that did not happen and this is another issue that does not square the detective’s accounts that Ealy was free to leave at any time. He must have been free to leave but was not free to get access to food, water, sleep, or his mother.
Police Account: The next day Ealy willingly signed two consent forms to search his bedroom at his mother’s apartment.
Reality: Why would a suspect in 4 murders with evidence under his bed willingly sign two consent forms to search his bedroom? This issue also defies all logic. Had Ealy been of sound mind and body at the time he was asked to sign the forms, it is more than reasonable to assume he would not have signed the forms willingly. The police cannot keep a “suspect” awake overnight during which he was interrogated relentlessly for 18 hours and then request that he sign a document that they should have asked him to sign before he endured their tactics.
Each of the dailies covering this case failed to adequately display the realities of the actions of the officials involved in the case. Both the Tribune and Suntimes give only passing reference to the fact that the judge in the case, Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney, is currently federal inmate #02514-424 who is housed at the the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Lompoc, California. He was convicted in 1993 for taking bribes to fix murder cases during the time period he sat on the bench hearing the Ealy case.
The dailies instead prominently display his comments at the time the case was overturned. His comments of course are bashing the Illinois Appellate Court and how they have just endangered the public by overturning Ealy’s conviction. I am not sure why the comments of a judge convicted of taking bribes in murder cases have any credibility, especially when he is talking about another official endangering society. One would think taking bribes to fix murder cases would endanger society more then ruling on the unconstitutional actions of police.
The Tribune did report that Detective Vucko was featured in their series titled “Cops and Confessions” back in December 1991. Read the series here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV. The information about Detective Vucko was buried in paragraph 25 of a 32-paragraph story. The first 24 paragraphs explain the case and bash the Illinois Appellate Court for their decision.
The reality of the case is that the police used extra legal methods to obtain a confession and evidence against Ealy. Had a judge with integrity been on the bench at the time rather then one seeking secret payments from the defendant been on the bench, the case would never have made it to the Illinois Appellate Court. One of the detectives involved in the case had a track record for using unconstitutional methods for obtaining evidence and confessions from suspects. The Chicago Police Department disregarded his actions and thus the Chicago Police Department has some responsibility in the recent murder of Mary Hutchison, if indeed Ealy is guilty of this murder.
The saddest issue involved in this whole case is that we will never know how man innocent men are in prison due to Detective Vucko’s actions; but thanks to the Tribune and Suntimes we are able to hear how disgusted a crooked judge was with the work of judges following the United States Constitution. Maloney was probably venting because he figured the Illinois Appellate Court judges got the payoff he wanted to let this murderer go free.