Cook judge stirs hope for justice
Herald-News editorial April 10, 2012 7:44PM
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:19AM
It’s about as rare as a string of 80-degree days in March, but a Cook County judge last week said he will appoint a special prosecutor to probe the disturbing lack of a thorough investigation into the 2004 death of a 21-year-old man on Chicago’s North Side.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Toomin strongly, and justifiably, criticized Chicago police and county prosecutors for their handling of the inquiry into the death of David Koschman, of Mount Prospect, who died 11 days after being punched in the face during a late-night confrontation between two groups.
This was a classic “heater case” for police because the person who struck Koschman was Richard “RJ” Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard Daley. The initial investigation concluded that Koschman was the aggressor, that witnesses could not ID Vanecko from a lineup and there was no cause to arrest Vanecko. It had the distinct stench of a political fix.
In his ruling, Toomin gave credence to claims by attorneys for Koschman’s mother that police fabricated witness statements to make it appear that Koschman came at the much-larger Vanecko and Vanecko acted in self-defense. The judge also noted that authorities never questioned Vanecko.
Saying the legal system had failed Koschman, Toomin was blunt in his view of the case: “This was a defense conjured up by police and prosecutors. ... This is not a whodunit. We know who did it. We have a known offender and yet no charges.”
His ruling was vindication for Nanci Koschman, who has struggled for eight years with the belief that her son was denied justice, and her attorneys as well as for our sister paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, whose series of stories over the past 15 months raised many questions about the case and the role of political clout in it.
Without their persistence, this troubling case never would have been reopened, becoming lost in the fog of corruption that envelops Chicago and Cook County. We hope the special prosecutor can reveal the truth about this sordid case and attain justice for the Koschman family.