Mark Brown

Mark Brown

Brown: No good reason to keep secret

Originally published Sept. 19, 2013


It’s unfathomable to me that an effort undertaken to shed light on the troubling inconsistencies surrounding the investigation into the death of David Koschman would result in a secret report.

Sure, special prosecutor Dan K. Webb and the judge who empowered him to take the case, Michael Toomin, would say the secrecy is only temporary—and necessary to protect the right to a fair trial of Richard J. Vanecko, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Sorry, but with genuine respect for both of them, that doesn’t cut it.

In the first place, they’re giving the public way too much credit for keeping up with current events.
As both of them must be well aware from their own experience, the jury selection process is most remarkable these days for revealing the lack of information known by potential jurors, even in the most high-profile cases.

I hate to say it, because educating the public about current events is how I make a living, but the truth is that only a small percentage is paying attention.

We are reminded of this anew every time there is a major trial. It’s not that difficult to sort out the jurors who have preconceived views about a case because there are so few who know the first thing about it.

Webb’s findings would have to be truly stunning to have a deeper impact, and if that’s the case, that’s even more reason to hear them now and get to work on addressing whatever systemic issues he may raise.

To my mind, that aspect of the case has always been more important than convicting Vanecko. I certainly think it’s what spurred the Chicago Sun-Times’ reporters whose own investigation led to the appointment of the special prosecutor.

What was important was for somebody to run out every lead, open the doors that reporters don’t have the juice to open and to compel answers from those not normally inclined to provide them.

Every indication we’ve received over the past year and a half is that Webb and company were conducting just such a thorough investigation. They undoubtedly deserve our gratitude, if we could only see the fruits of their labor.

If Webb found evidence that someone tried to obstruct or impede justice in the Koschman case to do a favor for the Daley family, let’s hear about it.

The clear implication of the news release Webb issued Thursday to indicate completion of his assignment was that — even though he determined that no other indictments could be brought — he found something significant.

He cites the three-year statute of limitations as explanation for why no Chicago Police Department or Cook County State’s attorney personnel are being charged for their actions in the case in 2004. He also says there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that police acted criminally in 2011.

That tells me they have evidence that needs to be disclosed.

As things currently stand, Vanecko is expected to stand trial early next year for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Koschman — in connection with an incident that occurred on April 25, 2004.
That means we’ll be coming up on the 10th anniversary of his death before Webb’s report will be released under the plan he and Toomin have agreed upon.

I guess they could argue what’s another six months to wait when we’ve already waited nine and a half years, but I never thought their work was intended as a history report.

Twitter: @MarkBrownCST