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Alvarez to '60 Minutes': False confessions story was 'offensive'

Friday, December 14, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Jason Meisner

After days of scathing reviews of her "60 Minutes" interview on false confessions, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez fired off a letter to the venerable news program calling its Sunday report "one-sided and extremely misleading" and vowing to set the record straight.

The segment titled "Chicago: The False Confession Capital" featured two infamous Chicago-area cases in which teenage boys allegedly confessed to brutal murders but were later exonerated when DNA excluded them as the killers.


In her letter, addressed to CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, Alvarez called the story "an offensive display" and accused reporter Byron Pitts of using only snippets of a 6-month-old interview to distort her record and make it appear she was still trying to prosecute the cases.

"Had I known that this story would completely distort my position and intentionally omit critical facts, I would never have agreed to your interview," Alvarez wrote.

One particularly damaging portion of the interview involved the Dixmoor Five case in which five men were convicted as teens of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl whose body was found on a path. DNA linked a serial rapist to the crime and undermined confessions from the teens. They were cleared in 2011 after spending years in prison.

Alvarez explained in the interview that one possible explanation for the DNA was necrophilia — that the rapist had sex with the girl after she'd already been killed.

That answer — which was roundly mocked in blogs and news critiques — was misconstrued, Alvarez said in the letter. She wrote that the necrophilia theory was used at trial years before she had any involvement in the case.

"I have never advanced that theory or argument, but simply responded, when asked by Mr. Pitts, that we can't say with certainty what had occurred," Alvarez wrote. "This story was not designed to inform, it was designed to undermine me and mislead the public."

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Alvarez, said the reaction to the piece has been vitriolic. "She's gotten hate mail, things you couldn't even publish," Daly said.

CBS News representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.


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