Her Foolish Heart


We have a dead body. This is not a whodunit. We know who done it. There’s a known offender and yet no charges.” Judge Michael P. Toomin. April 6, 2012.
The facts of the story are clear. And now, eight years after the punch was thrown and the boy went down on the street in front of the bar, hit his head on the curb and died, there is no argument about who threw that punch.

The relentless reporting on the story by Chris Fusco and Tim Novak of the Chicago Sun Times, the legal team and support from the Northwestern University MacArthur Justice Center have kept the facts clear. Kept the story front and center in the public eye.

And peaking out between every single line of fact is the glinting steel rhythm of Nanci Koschman’s foolish heart.

Nanci Koschman is the mother of the 21 year old man who was killed that night. She’s the one with the foolish heart.

Perhaps you know someone who has a foolish heart like she does. Foolish hearts are rare. But once you’ve seen one, you don’t forget. Because the foolish heart is marked by the absolute iron clad refusal to stop. In the face of odds that leave the word insurmountable in the dust. Against all notions of what’s fair or rational or moral or immoral or any label you want to slap on the situation. The foolish heart never quits. That beat never stops. That reverberation rings on forever. The smart money would give up. But the foolish heart keeps on.

Nanci Koschman needed that foolish heart. After her husband died in 1994, it was just she and David. She was not a wealthy woman. Like a lot of us, she worked a lot of jobs to get by.

Then came that April night in 2004. There was a confrontation. It’s still being debated who hit who first. But the much smaller Koschman went down, hit his head and died 11 days later as a result of the blow.

The other man in the fight left the scene. And in the initial records of the case was never identified.

That’s when what Judge Toomin called “lost file syndrome” kicked in. The judge also cited “procedural irregularities, the absence of recorded police activity, lapses, delays, failures of the identification process and false reports.”

In other words, the kind of massive chain of events unfolding exactly as they should NOT unfold that would wear down and stop so many of us.

But not Nanci Koschman and her foolish heart.

Now, eight years later, the previously unidentified man in the fight has been identified as R.J. Vanecko. The nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley.

So the speculation can of course come easy. The cries of power, and foul are of course even easier.

Mr. Vanecko has not been charged with anything. The only uncontested fact being that he did throw the punch.

So Nanci Koschman’s foolish heart keeps going. The story isn’t over yet.

But it took a gigantic turn in Nanci Koschman’s favor last Friday. The biggest single event since that heart of hers went into overdrive. Judge Toomin called for a Special Prosecutor. A request that had previously been blocked by States Attorney Anita Alverez.

Alverez did not contest the judge’s ruling. Now the case can be shepherded along outside the confines of a traditional justice system that by any known measure has failed.

Now the decision makers will be making room for Nanci Koschman too. Inviting her inside the tent where the golden rich piano chords sing out in shades of spring time hope, the music of a song just for her. A song they call—

My Foolish Heart.

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