Presumed Guilty

Scott Turow's Real-Life Courtroom Thriller

M. A. Farber

In 1988 the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the convictions of Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez, holding that they should not have been tried together. In 1990, Cruz and Hernandez were tried separately. Brian Dugan, brought to court in shackles, refused to testify on behalf of either defendant because DuPage prosecutors' objections, the jury was told that Dugan had confessed to the Nicarico murder and had been convicted of two other murders. In his closing argument at the Cruz trial, prosecutor Robert Kilander revised his office's position. Dugan, he now said, may have been "involved" in the murder of Jeanine Nicarico.

Cruz was again convicted and sentenced to die. Hernandez's jury was unable to reach a verdict-two jurors held out for acquittal-and he was tried for the third time in April 1991. He was convicted of murder but acquitted of sexual assault. Before Hernandez's sentencing, one of his lawyers, Jeffrey Urdangen, asked several people to write the judge. Gary Johnson, who had represented Stephen Buckley in 1985 and was now the Kane County state's attorney, warned in his letter that when the truth finally emerged about "this ugly prosecution" it "will do to prosecutors what the Rodney King police beating tapes have done to the police."

Jeremy Margolis, a Chicago lawyer who had reviewed he Nicario case as head of the state police from 1987 to early 1991 and who considered Ed Cisowski a "solid, honest" cop, begged the judge to spare Alex Hernandez's life. Hernandez was sentenced to 80 years. But Urdangen and Margolis were not through. Another lawyer was needed to lead Hernandez's next appeal, one who could finish the job. And Margolis had the "perfect" candidate in mind.