Indictments Seen as Wake-Up Call for Prosecutors

Article excerpt

Byline: Lorilyn Rackl Daily Herald Staff Writer

Ideally, winning a conviction and achieving justice go hand in hand.

But sometimes the road to those two destinations diverges.

And - rarely, many say - overzealous prosecutors may find themselves trampling justice on their way to courtroom victory.

Grand jury indictments last week of three former DuPage County prosecutors involved in the case allege that's what happened when it came to finding the killer of Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville.

The trio of attorneys as well as four DuPage County sheriff's deputies were accused of making up evidence and conspiring to conceal information in the case against Rolando Cruz, who was cleared last year of the murder of the 10-year-old girl.

Whether the charges against the former assistant state's attorneys are true will be left for a jury to decide.

What is clear, however, is that some members of the legal community say it's time to take a look at the way cases are prosecuted in the county.

"I believe in tough, effective law enforcement," said state Sen. Dan Cronin, an assistant state's attorney himself for nearly three years. "But I also believe the prosecutor has to do what's fair and just. I think sometimes prosecutors lose site of that."

Douglas Drenk has worked with several prosecutors during his 20-year career as an attorney in Wheaton.

While he didn't point to any instances in which he's witnessed wrongdoing by prosecutors, he says he has noticed a "prosecutorial attitude" that often flies in the face of fairness.

"There are some people in this county that aren't outraged these indictments came down," Drenk said. "We're outraged they didn't come down sooner."

The indictments, Drenk says, may serve as a wake-up call for prosecutors too eager to "succeed" at their job.

"It's no longer a profession - it's a job," he said. "Your job isn't to do justice. It's to get convictions."

Former DuPage County Bar Association President Joseph F. Mirabella says he is shocked by the recent indictments.

But that's because he knows the people involved. …