State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez calls recent 60 Minutes report a ‘misrepresentation of the facts’
BY MICHAEL LANSU Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2012 11:24PM
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez appeared in a feature on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday. | Courtesy CBS News
Updated: December 14, 2012 12:43AM
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez called a recent “60 Minutes” report on false confessions in the Chicago area a “misrepresentation of the facts” and sent a letter to the chairman of CBS News.
Byron Pitts interviewed Alvarez six months ago for the segment “Chicago: The False Confession Capital,” a piece about Cook County leading the nation in false confessions that aired nationally Sunday night on CBS. It featured high-profile murder cases where teenage boys falsely confessed and were later exonerated by DNA evidence.
Alvarez “received a significant amount of negative feedback” for her participation in the segment and her stance on false confessions, she said in a Thursday letter to state’s attorney’s office employees and citizens requesting a response.
On Wednesday, Alvarez sent a letter to CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager expressing her disappointment in the “one-sided and extremely misleading story.”
Alvarez said “60 Minutes” producers contacted her office about a year ago and said the segment intended to provide a balanced story. “Had I known that this story would completely distort my position and intentionally omit critical facts, I would never have agreed to your interview,” she wrote to Fager.
Alvarez claimed the segment falsely implied she continued to prosecute men featured in the story who gave false confessions. Alvarez further claims the segment did not make it clear that she dismissed all the cases prior to the interview.
She also contested the segment’s portrayal of the creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit.
Alvarez was especially criticized for the “Dixmoor Five” case, where five men were convicted for the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. The men were cleared in 2011 when DNA linked the crime to a serial rapist.
During the “60 Minutes” segment, Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project in New York, said the state’s attorney’s office suggested in court that necrophilia was a possible reason for the DNA of a convicted rapist was found inside the victim.
In the letter to Fagan, Alvarez said there were numerous inaccuracies about the case and the necrophilia theory was investigated years before she took office.
Following a large number of inquiries to what was aired in the segment, Alvarez issued a letter to her employees and the public on Thursday. She felt it was “appropriate to set the record straight” in response to these cases, said spokeswoman Sally Daly.
“Given the manner in which 60 Minutes chose to edit my interview, I am not surprised by the negative feedback … CBS provided an inexcusably limited narrative of the case and excluded my most pertinent comments regarding the important and troubling topic of wrongful convictions in an apparent effort to provide their story with an antagonist. Their misrepresentation of the facts and my hour-long interview with them
did a disservice to their audience and their journalist credibility.”
A CBS spokesman was unable to comment Thursday night.