An Ethical Dilemma

A tragic, real-world dilemma (HT: Eugene Volokh):

Alton Logan doesn’t understand why two lawyers with proof he didn’t commit murder were legally prevented from helping him. They had their reasons: To save Logan, they would have had to break the cardinal rule of attorney-client privilege to reveal their own client had committed the crime. But Logan had 26 years in prison to try to understand why he was convicted for a crime he didn’t commit….

“Yes. Sympathize with [the lawyers’ dilemma], yes. Understand it, no,” Logan tells Simon. “If you know this is an innocent person, why would you allow this person to be prosecuted, convicted, sent to prison for all these years?” asks the 54-year-old inmate.

Lawyers Jamie Kunz and Dale Coventry were public defenders when their client, Andrew Wilson, admitted to them he had shot-gunned a security guard to death in a 1982 robbery. When a tip led to Logan’s arrest and he went to trial for the crime, the two lawyers were in a bind. They wanted to help Logan but legally couldn’t.

“The rules of conduct for attorneys, it’s very, very clear…. We’re in a position to where we have to maintain client confidentiality, just as a priest would or a doctor would. It’s just a requirement of the law. The system wouldn’t work without it,” says Coventry.

They watched Logan’s trial to see whether he got a life or death sentence. “We thought that somehow we would stop at least the execution,” Coventry tells Simon. “Morally, there’s very little difference and we were torn about that, but in terms of the canons of ethics, there is a difference — you can prevent a death.”

One thought on “An Ethical Dilemma

  1. As for the two attorneys who ‘could not reveal the fact that Logan was innocent’ I have just one question…….. What if it was one of their sons who were accused and they were defending the real killer???? I believe without a doubt either of their son (or close relative/friend) would not have served one day in prison. It would not have mattered if they were disbarred. Sometimes you have to give up something. In this situation they should have done what was morally right; saved Logan’s life from 26 years of incarceration.

    Velma Estes

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