Justice Denied for Enoch

By: Andy Thayer

Illinois's Supreme Court spat on the constitutional rights of death-row inmate Willie Enoch in late April, refusing to hear his case. Unfortunately Enoch now has few legal recourses left.

Enoch's case does have compelling constitutional issues, the kind which the Court is "supposed" to hear, but for the court to consent to hear them could have called the whole justice system in Illinois into question.

At issue are state-conducted DNA tests which supposedly link Enoch to the 1983 murder of Armanda "Kay" Burns. Prosecutor Kevin Lyons at first refused to allow the testing - even if conducted at the defense's expense. When finally forced by Judge Robert A. Barnes, Jr. to allow the tests, Lyons refused the defense's request that simultaneous testing of the evidence be conducted by an independent lab while the state conducted its own tests.

Last May, the state released a 2-page report which it claimed was the result of its DNA test - ostensibly showing that Enoch committed the crime. But one year later, it still refuses to release the test data, let alone allow independent verification of the tests.

This is the heart of the constitutional issue: in most other circumstances defendants have the right to face their accuser, to challenge their testimony, and to produce evidence contrary to the that brought forward by government prosecutors. In Enoch's case, he was forced to accept the findings of a state lab with no meaningful opportunity to test their truthfulness.

That the Illinois State Supreme Court declined to face such a test of the state's justice system came as no surprise to Enoch supporters here. Ten of the state's death row prisoners rot there thanks to torture-induced confessions at just one Chicago district police headquarters. When the city fired its top cop there, it admitted torture had taken place.

This gross injustice should not only make us sick to our stomachs, but challenge others to question whether such a corrupt judicial system could ever fairly implement the death penalty.