Dear Editor:

I am writing this letter in response to last week’s feature story, “The Eyewitness” written by Grant Pick [August 27]. Although Mr. Pick did a reasonably competent job of summarizing the highly fact-intensive case of the People of the State of Illinois v. Jason Gray, Mr. Pick made several factual misstatements to which I feel compelled to respond.

First, Mr. Pick writes that in November 2001 I met with Holly McGuire at a southwest-side bar and drank “one or two” beers. Mr. Pick goes on to suggest that I was expecting a child at that time. While I do appreciate a story that incorporates such salacious details, Mr. Pick is mistaken when he reports that I was expecting a child in November of 2001. Contrary to Mr. Pick’s reporting, my second child was born on September 11, 2001, more than two months before my first meeting with McGuire (a day I will not forget for more than one reason). My third child was not born until April 18, 2003. I do not know where Mr. Pick obtained his facts concerning the birth of my children–indeed I am not sure how it is relevant at all–but perhaps in the future Mr. Pick might want to assure the factual accuracy of his reporting before making such injurious assertions.

Second, Mr. Pick writes that Jesse Alvarez identified Jason Gray from a lineup shortly after the shooting in 1986. Mr. Pick is again mistaken. Jesse Alvarez never identified Mr. Gray from a lineup as an offender in this case prior to Mr. Gray’s trial. In fact, Mr. Alvarez gave the police the nicknames of the offenders he saw the fleeing the scene immediately after the shooting and did NOT name Gray as an offender. Alvarez also viewed a lineup containing Mr. Gray and failed to identify him as an offender.

Last, Mr. Pick extensively quotes Anthony Calabrese, the prosecutor who wrongly convicted Mr. Gray, concerning Calabrese’s theory that Ms. McGuire was harassed by defense counsel over the years to change her testimony. Mr. Pick failed to point out that Ms. McGuire herself denied under oath that she has ever been pressured, coerced, threatened, or otherwise harassed by defense or anyone else to make the statements she made during the course of Mr. Gray’s postconviction proccedings. Although Mr. Calabrese is entitled to hypothesize about Ms. McGuire’s motivation for admitting under oath that she never actually saw the shooter’s face, the record belies Mr. Calabrese’s theories, as does Ms. McGuire’s own testimony. Mr. Pick might have been well advised to consult the record rather than relying solely on the opinions of a self-interested prosecutor who never testified at Mr. Gray’s postconviction proceedings and had no role in those proceedings.

Jennifer Bonjean

Grant Pick replies:

I apologize for getting the date of Ms. Bonjean’s pregnancy wrong. I intended to show only that her having young children helped her establish a rapport with Holly McGuire, who has a son. As to Ms. Bonjean’s second point, the police reports of the crime that Holly witnessed indicate that Alvarez didn’t identify Gray in a lineup, but the Illinois Appellate Court decision that rejected an appeal by Manuel Bobe, who was also convicted of the murders, reads, “Alvarez viewed a lineup the following day and identified the defendant [Bobe] as one of the persons he saw in the basement doorway holding a gun. He identified Jason Gray as the person who fired into the crowd.” I don’t know why the two conflict, but in any event, at Bobe’s trial Alvarez did identify Gray as the shooter. As to Ms. Bonjean’s third point, Calabrese said Holly had been threatened by gang members or friends of Gray to change her testimony, threats she testified to in court.