Inbal Hasbani


As Interviewed by Noa Adelman, March 31, 2019

Inbal Hasbani: in her own words

I've been practicing as a lawyer for eight and a half years. Before I graduated from law school and then for a little bit of time after law school, I worked for the wrongful convictions clinic at Northwestern University. During that time, I started to think a lot about people who were serving sentences that they didn't need to be serving and at the same time there had been a case that had started to interest me.

I learned about this case and that's what prompted me to write this article about allowing attorneys to come forward when they have information about somebody who's serving a sentence for a crime they didn't commit. It was a case where a man named Alton Logan was serving a life sentence in prison. And two attorneys named Dale Coventry and Jamie Coons knew that their client, whose name was Andrew Wilson, had committed the murder for which Alton Logan was serving a life sentence. Andrew Wilson, their client, had confessed to doing that murder while Alton Logan was being tried. So, during his trial they already knew that their client had committed this murder.

Unless Wilson had authorized his attorneys to disclose this confession, they are not allowed under the law to come forward with the evidence that their client did this murder. There was another attorney after this case that we're even discussing who came forward with information that his clients had confessed to a crime for which somebody else was in prison. First of all, that information was never presented to try and release this other person from jail because in the law, you're not allowed to use evidence that was obtained through illegal means. Also, that attorney was sanctioned for an ethics violation and disbarred which means he's no longer allowed to practice law. Now these attorneys put together an affidavit, which is a signed declaration declaring under oath that they knew that their client had committed this murder that Alton Logan was on trial for they promised that once their client died they would come forward with the evidence. Now under the ethical rules attorney-client privilege even survives a person's death.

And I met Alton Logan I went to an event and I met him. I also met the two attorneys that released him. They were also at that event. I don't think I ever spoke with them directly at the time, but what impacted me was watching these two attorneys with Alton Logan in the same room interact a little bit because Alton Logan could have been very angry with these attorneys.

You know, I think he had to some degree made peace with the fact that this happened to him. I mean, but he did not seem that angry anymore at these attorneys. I think he just thought this was the product of an unfair system not necessarily because of bad lawyers. Like they were just following the rules.

So the attorney-client privilege is an ironclad privilege it restricts attorneys from disclosing confidential information of their clients. There are almost no exceptions There are a few and they're very narrow. Well so what I was advocating in the article that I had published was that there should be a new exception to the attorney-client privilege rules that allows attorneys to come forward in the event that they know that their client committed a crime for which somebody else is serving a prison sentence.

And I felt comfortable advocating for this exception even with the marginal negative effect it might have on conversations. Because I felt like releasing innocent people from prison was too important. I had published this article to suggest and that this exception should be added.

When I first heard about this case it was the first time I really thought about how wrongful convictions or information about wrongful convictions intersects with the attorney-client privilege. So what I was trying to say in my article was that just the virtue of being in prison deteriorates people's quality of life. So significantly that we should introduce an exception that is specific to that situation, even if they never are hurt.

There's always this delicate line that attorneys play in general between advocating for a client and making sure that Justice is furthered and it's something that I think about all the time and all of my cases. I mean the repercussions are not nearly as severe for me now because I don't I'm not doing criminal work at Kirkland, but it is something you know, this case I think it illuminated that very fine balance. Between those two sometimes conflicting goals and it's a constant struggle. I think for all attorneys. Yeah. I missed the fact the impact that you have in a lot of ways is a lot weightier in the criminal world. You're either helping victims of crimes getting the Justice they deserve or you are helping defend either sometimes innocent victims or sometimes not innocent victims sometimes guilty victims, but everybody deserves a defense, you know. it made me think about what I would do in that circumstance. There's what those other attorneys had to do. I mean I would feel really guilty if for 25 years I knew somebody was in prison wrongfully.

I hope I would have come forward. I don't know though it just weighed on me that this happened and that there were other cases like this that were happening and there was nothing to do about it right now.

I felt on the one hand a bit outraged by the fact that these attorneys let this innocent man sit in prison for 25 years and on the other hand, I felt some sympathy towards them because it's a very tough ethical issue.