Former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pick to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, once decided to continue prosecution of the wrong man in a high-profile murder case, reports ProPublica.org. While attorney general in 1992, Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville in 1983.
By 1992, another man had confessed to the crime, and Burris’ own deputy attorney general pleaded with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court. Burris refused. He was running for governor. “Anybody who understood this case wouldn’t have voted for Burris,” said Rob Warden of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Burris lost that race, and two other attempts to become governor. Cruz eventually walked free in 1995 after serving 11 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Democratic U.S. Senate leaders want to deny Burris his seat because Blagojevich is accused of plotting to sell it.