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Ignorance of the Rules of Omission: An Essay on Privilege Law

Posted by on Monday, November 27, 2023 in Articles, Volume 76, Volume 76, Number 6.

Rebecca Wexler | 76 Vand. L. Rev. 1609

Alton Logan spent twenty-six years in prison for a murder he did not commit, sleeping with a homemade metal shank under his pillow for protection. Meanwhile, attorney Dale Coventry kept the evidence that would ultimately exonerate Logan—another man’s confession—in a box beneath his bed. Coventry kept the confession secret for a quarter century because he believed that it was protected by attorney-client privilege and that his duty of confidentiality to his client mattered more than decades of Mr. Logan’s life.

How could it happen that a legal rule ostensibly forged from humanistic concern for honor and ethics—passed along to us through the ages, from early Elizabethan cases that talked of gentlemen and morality, of avoiding treachery and betrayal—could cause such a tragedy?

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Rebecca Wexler