CROOKED CITY

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Events:

 

 

 

SIMON CASE TESTS TAINTED PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE

Prosecutors represent the people. It is their duty to identify, charge, and convict criminals. They hold a sacred responsibility to the public. Prosecutors are the people victims and their loved ones turn to in their last attempts for justice.  

The wrongful conviction movement has challenged this trust. Lawyers, academics, and their supporters in the media machine have lobbied an intense campaign against the police and prosecutors office for the last 30 years, challenging one conviction after another. 

Prosecutors in many instances have bowed to this pressure, violating their oath of office. In doing so, they have betrayed the public, the police, and the innocent. A sign of this betrayal is the exoneration Anthony Porter and wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon. 

The story of Porter’s release and Simon’s incarceration is one of a prosecutor’s office mired in corruption and politics, an office bending to the will of the wrongful convition activists in defiance of evidence, testimony, police investigations, and the law. It shows that prosecutors knowingly let a killer free from prison and incarcerated an innocent man. 

Part 1

The Anthony Porter Conspiracy

Anthony Porter was a career thug who gunned down a couple in a crowded park in 1982. When Porter’s name came up as a suspect right after the murders, every cop in the second district knew who they were talking about. Anthony Porter was a known gang enforcer and stick up man. At the time of the murders, he was wanted on a warrant for shooting a man in the head over a barking dog and was a suspect in numerous armed robberies of elderly people and several murders. 

No less than seven witnesses eventually pointed to Porter as the offender. Two of the witnesses testified in court. One of the two witnesses had been robbed by Porter shortly before the shootings. His testimony placed Porter at the park, armed, committing robberies. Porter was convicted and sentenced to death. Shortly before he was to be executed, his lawyer obtained a stay of execution, based on the claim that Porter’s IQ was too low. 

In 1998, Northwestern University’s Innocence Project under David Protess became involved in the case. After a short “investigation,” Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino, and several students announced Porter was innocent and another man, Alstory Simon, was the offender. The foundation of their claim that Porter was innocent was a confession they obtained from Alstory Simon on a winter morning in 1999.

Simon eventually claimed this confession was coerced. He claimed Ciolino burst into his Milwaukee home with a gun that February morning and threatened violence against him. He said Ciolino claimed he (Ciolino) was a cop and Simon was about to be arrested for the murders. Ciolino showed documents from witnesses that stated Simon was the killer and not Porter, then advised him he could get the death penalty. Threatening Simon with life in prison and even violence if he didn’t cooperate, Ciolino, according to Simon, forced Simon into making a taped confession to the two murders. 

Simon also made a claim that was by now common in Protess/Ciolino exoneration cases. He said he was offered a shortened prison sentence and money from movie and book deals by the two men if he would confess to the crimes. 

In one of the most incredible twists in the confession, Ciolino corroborates the claim that Simon asked for an attorney during their meeting. Ciolino picked up the phone at Simon’s apartment and called an attorney who was a personal friend back in Chicago, Jack Rimland, who also rented office space from Ciolino. 

It was one of the darkest chapters in Chicago’s criminal justice system. A man trying to get another man to confess to murder obtains a lawyer for that man, a lawyer who tells his client not to exercise his right to remain silent, but instead confess to murders sixteen years after the fact. 

In addition to not telling Simon to remain silent, Rimland didn’t tell Simon to call the police and have Ciolino removed. Rather, he encouraged Simon to plead guilty to the murders on tape without the attorney even reviewing the case, and despite all the evidence of Simon’s innocence, including the six witnesses who still fingered Porter. 

Alstory Simon’s lawyers recently pounced on the validity of this confession and the conduct of Rimland in a letter to prosecutor Anita Alvarez, demanding that Simon be released from prison. 

“…Alstory [Simon’s guilty] plea is directly attributable to provable misconduct of his attorney, Jack Rimland, who was hired by and working on behalf of Ciolino and Protess. In that role, Rimland lied to Alstory about the strength of the State’s case, and withheld explosive grand jury evidence of Porter’s guilt from both Alstory Simon and the court.”

Armed with the videotape of Simon’s confession, Ciolino delivered it to a network news station in Chicago. It was broadcast.  Suddenly the whole city was electrified by the contention that the state had almost executed an innocent man. 

In 1999, the Cook County State’s Attorney was Dick Devine. At the time Devine decided to free Porter, the Chicago media, particularly the Chicago Tribune, was pummeling Devine’s office, saying prosecutors had put dozens of innocent people in prison. 

In the face of this pressure, Devine released Porter from prison on the double murder charge, based largely on the existence of the videotaped confession. But, according to Devine’s own staff member, Devine had never actually seen the entire tape, only the edited, cut down news broadcast version. That meant a gang enforcer convicted of a double homicide was released from prison based upon a taped confession the prosecutor had not even reviewed. 

This was all it took to undermine a murder conviction in the City of Chicago. 

Of course, there is a level of irony that’s hard to ignore. The Chicago media was hounding Devine’s office about wrongful convictions as the Porter exoneration was unfolding. These journalists were pointing to what they claimed was one coerced confession after another, but failed to see the clear coercion by Ciolino against Simon right in front of them.

Porter was released. The media went nuts. Here was a man going from death row to walking around the south side within just a few days. Inmates who watched Porter’s release realized that if Porter could get out, anyone could. Wrongful conviction claims exploded. 

Devine’s office could have put Porter on bond, could have granted him some conditional discharge pending further investigation, but Devine just cut Porter loose. 

And that, as they say, was that. 

Part II

The 1999 Grand Jury

After Devine let Porter out, Thomas Epach, chief of the prosecutor’s criminal division, initiated a grand jury investigation. Epach disagreed with the decision to let Porter out and to take Simon into custody. Epach set up the Grand Jury so that the Northwestern case could be carefully reviewed. 

The transcripts of these hearings are explosive. They reveal, step by step, the fraudulence of the Northwestern “investigation” into the Porter case. They also stand as a chilling window into the tactics of the wrongful convition movement, and they reveal clearly just how corrupt the decision by Devine to release Porter and convict Simon truly was. 

Convening the Grand Jury was itself a revealing event, a sign of the schism within the prosecutor's office. Why hold a Grand Jury after Porter had already been released? It was putting the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t Devine have held the hearings before releasing Porter? If his office was working by sifting through evidence and the application of the law, that would be the right way to proceed. The fact that Devine released Porter before holding this grand jury is a clear indication of how easily his office bowed to media pressure. 

Prosecutor Thomas Gainer was given the job of presenting evidence for the Grand Jury. In the course of this hearing, Gainer slowly dissected the Northwestern claims, refuting them in their entirety. Gainer discovered one piece of evidence after another that the Northwestern’s claims were not only false, but also that Protess, Ciolino and the students had quite likely acted illegally. 

Gainer discovered, for example:

—Northwestern students hadn’t even bothered to talk to four of six witnesses in the case. Four of the six witnesses corroborated in exact detail the statements of two witnesses discovered hours earlier. Rare indeed was it for detectives to find two groups of independent witnesses who provided identical statements, all of which fingered Porter.

—They had not bothered to even speak to the detectives, though their theory that Porter was innocent was based on the claim that detectives had framed Porter. 

—Protess, Ciolino, and the students harassed a central witness into the case into changing his story, part of a pattern of coercion taking place at Northwestern, according to Alstory Simon’s lawyers.

—Numerous independent statements that witnesses had been bribed into changing their testimony. 

—The Northwestern group had clearly coerced a confession from Simon through threats of violence, intimidation, and bribery.

Consider this exchange between Gainer and Protess about four witnesses to the shooting;

Q: And your students didn’t investigate those four men, did they?

Protess: No.

Q: You didn’t ask Paul Ciolino to find those four men?

Protess: No.

Q: You didn’t go out yourself and look for those four men?

Protess: No.

Q: None of your group ever conducted any interview of those four men?

Protess: That’s correct.

So much for the Northwestern “investigation.”

At the conclusion of this Grand Jury hearing, despite all the evidence revealed in it, Devine did not re-indict Porter. He did not release Simon from prison. 

Part III

Simon’s Confession

The release of Porter, the arrest of Simon and the Grand Jury investigation all took place in the winter of 1999. Devine and Gainer knew from the Grand Jury hearings that the witnesses still fingered Porter for the killings. They knew that Protess and his students hadn’t really investigated the case at all. 

Most of all, Devine and Gainer knew Simon was innocent. Nevertheless, Gainer walked into court six months after the grand jury hearings and accepted a confession from Simon, a confession in which Simon accepted a sentence of 37 years in exchange for pleading guilty. 

Not only did Gainer walk into court and allow Simon to confess, so did Simon’s lawyer, Jack Rimland, who was also aware that the witnesses still fingered Porter. 

Then something amazing happened. Both Gainer and Rimland lied to the trial judge, not revealing all the evidence that Porter was still guilty and that Simon had nothing to do with the murders. In fact, Gainer misrepresented key eyewitness testimony. Gainer did so by taking evidence that pointed to Porter being the killer and falsely using it against Simon. Rimland also knew this evidence against Simon was false. 

Both Gainer and Rimland also knew that the videotaped confession obtained by Ciolino from Simon was clearly coerced and would not hold up in a trial. 

Not only did both men lie to the judge, they both neglected to tell Alstory Simon about all the witnesses still fingering Porter. Obviously, if Simon knew about these witnesses, he would not have pled guilty. He would have gone to trial. And if he had gone to trial, his so called confession would finally get the legal scrutiny it deserved, a scrutiny that Devine’s office clearly refused to apply: The confession would have been laughed out of court. 

It is important to pause for a moment and consider the import of what happened in the prosecutor’s office in their exoneration of Anthony Porter. The wrongful conviction movement is based on the argument that Chicago Police Officers are crooked, that they will lie to put an innocent man in prison and they don’t care who the real offender is. These accusations have compelled prosecutors to let convicted offenders out of prison. 

But the Porter case shows clearly, as a matter of record, that both the prosecutor’s office and the wrongful conviction activists were guilty of these same accusations on a staggering scale. It was the complete breakdown of a criminal justice system, a vast conspiracy. 

Part IV

Discord in Devine’s Office

Over the years, many people questioning the Porter exoneration have pointed out the corruption in Devine’s office for letting out Porter and taking Simon into custody. Oftentimes the people questioning this decision were ridiculed by Chicago’s Media machine. Chief among them was a retired Tribune journalist Bill Crawford, who wrote a long article about the Porter case, called Chimera.  

Crawford reviewed the evidence that Porter was guilty, that the Northwestern claims were false. He pointed out the utter illegality of the so called confession obtained by Ciolino. Crawford showed that this confession  could not withstand any scrutiny in a court of law. He questioned how it was that Porter could be released with so little evidence of his innocence. In response, local journalists ridiculed him, but never addressed the facts of the case that Crawford pointed out. 

Then something happened in 2014 that confirmed everything Crawford was arguing. One of the top members in Devine’s office, the Chief of the Criminal Division, Thomas Epach, signed an affidavit describing the intense discord within Devine’s office over Devine’s decision to release Porter and arrest Simon.   Epach described how he openly condemned this decision by Devine. 

“At the time of the release of Mr. Porter from custody, I was aware not only that the purported confession of Alstory Simon was obtained by Paul Ciolino, who was working on behalf of Anthony Porter, but also that Simon was being represented by attorney Jack Rimland, who had close ties to both Mr. Ciolino and David Protess, who were also advocating on behalf of the release of Porter,” Epach wrote. 

Then Epach dropped a bomb:

“I believed at the time that circumstances of this purported confession needed to be thoroughly investigated before a decision was made to either release Porter or to charge Simon with a crime. I was also aware that there was substantial credible evidence to support the conviction of Anthony Porter and that no physical evidence existed which tied Simon to those murders.”

Epach’s statement is a stunning rebuke of the Porter exoneration and a clear sign that members within Devine’s office understood that Simon was innocent. How could Devine accept a confession from Simon when his own attorneys are telling him it was no good? How could Gainer go into court and say there is no exculpating evidence against Simon when one of the lead attorneys in his office is saying exactly that? 

It’s hard to know how this discord in the prosecutor’s office played out, but there is an old saying about Chicago politics: If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. 

Within a few years, Epach would leave Devine’s office, his career as a prosecutor finished. Gainer remained at the prosecutors office after the Porter debacle and eventually became a judge, a coveted position among ambitious prosecutors.  

One man who stood for what was right was tossed aside. Another, who put a killer back on the street and innocent man in prison, was promoted. 

Crooked City, indeed. 

Part V

The Aftermath

Clearly, the prosecutor and the Northwestern investigators hoped the Porter case was finished. Simon, who had pled guilty to the murders, would waste away in prison. Porter, like all the “wrongfully convicted” offenders and their lawyers, would sue the city, claiming Porter was framed by the detectives. Porter would become rich. Protess and Northwestern would ride another wave of international acclaim. 

In prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Alstory Simon slowly realized he had been hoodwinked by Protess, Ciolino and Rimland. After he was sentenced, they stopped calling, stopped returning his letters. A shortened prison sentence and movie and book deals never materialized. Rimland sent a letter to Simon saying their business was finished. Simon suffered a kind of nervous breakdown in prison, realizing he would have to do the 37 years he was sentenced to. The deal by Ciolino that he would only serve a few years in prison was obviously a lie. 

Devine left the prosecutors office in 2008, replaced by Anita Alvarez. 

Simon became a jailhouse lawyer, spending his days in the prison library. He learned that he was entitled to all the records pertaining to his case from his lawyer. He sent a letter to Rimland demanding them. At first, he says, Rimland refused. Simon says he filed a complaint and a judge ordered Rimland to send them. 

It was then that Simon received the boxes of transcripts, including the Grand Jury records from 1999. He read them in his cell. He saw clearly all the evidence that should have immediately eliminated him as a suspect. He finally saw he had been railroaded by Northwestern and the prosecutors. He saw how Protess and his students hadn’t looked into the case at all, hadn’t even talked to the witnesses. He saw how all the evidence still pointed to Porter. He realized none of this evidence had been made known to him. He realized both the prosecutors and his own attorney had lied in court about his case. He began writing attorneys, seeking representation. He was, after all, wrongfully convicted. 

Finally, some attorneys and private investigators looked at the case and saw what happened. For the first time in more than a decade, there was hope for Simon. 

Simon filed two post conviction relief petitions, spelling out the evidence that he was the victim of a grand fraud and describing how Ciolino, Protess and the students had coerced him into confessing. Both of these petitions were reviewed by prosecutors who are still working in the prosecutors’ office as assistant state’s attorneys. One of the petitions was filed after Devine left office and the current prosecutor, Anita Alvarez took over. None of them took up Simon’s cause. 

But one has to stop and wonder: Why were the holes in the Northwestern exoneration claims so clear to one of the original prosecutors, Thomas Epach,  who never ceased protesting Simon’s innocence, but none of these prosecutors who reviewed his post conviction petition saw the holes in the Northwestern claims? Why didn’t they at least see the evidence in the Grand Jury that so clearly pointed to Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence? Why didn’t they see the evidence that the Simon confession was clearly coerced and false? Based on all this evidence, why didn’t the prosecutors grant Simon a hearing? Did anyone reviewing Simon’s petition bother to call up Epach and ask him about the case? Clearly their colleague, whom many of them had once worked with, could have pointed out the truth of the Porter case. 

Just one phone call. 

First prosecutors under Devine’s administration lie in a trial as part of a frame up against Simon. Then the prosecutor’s office under Alvarez refuses to re-open the case. 

If only that were the end of the sordid story. But it gets worse, much, much worse. 

 

Part VI

The Memo

The Chicago Sun Times recently published the contents of a 2002 internal memo from city attorneys. In this memo, the attorneys reviewed the Porter case and came to a stunning conclusion: They said rather than being released for the murders, Porter should have been retried. They then clearly stated that the prosecutors ruled on the case based on “political decisions,” not legal ones:

“Armed with five witnesses and one dead eyewitness (who could no longer be impeached) who placed Porter at the scene, shooting the deadly fire, it seemed strange that the State Attorneys’ Office did not re-prosecute the case. A political decision was made that this case should be put to rest because it causes too much publicity against the imposition of the death penalty, caused great doubt about the validity of the death penalty punishment for mentally challenged individuals and incited a significant amount of negative press concerning the Death Row reversals,” the memo read.

It was one more piece of evidence suggesting that prosecutors in Devine’s office had betrayed their oath, an oath demanding they rule based upon the evidence and the law. Instead, as the memo accuses, they had ruled based upon political reasons and media pressure. In doing so, Devine’s betrayed the police who had investigated the case and had faced accusations that they had coerced a confession from Porter. The prosecutor had betrayed the public good by releasing a killer back onto the streets, and they had betrayed the rights of Alstory Simon by accepting a confession from him when they knew it was false. 

Most of all, the prosecutors had let the wrongful conviction activists know that, if they could get away with the fraudulent exoneration of Anthony Porter, they could get away with anything. 

The memo was a stunning rebuke of the prosecutors’ conduct by another wholly independent body. 

But one has to pause and consider the memo in a circumspect manner. The city attorneys are saying  that there is still a lot of evidence against Porter, who was pardoned by Governor Ryan, and that he should be retried. 

If city attorneys felt this way about the Porter case, why didn’t they do more to bring it to the public’s attention? Why didn’t they ask the state’s attorney to review the case? Why didn’t they confront the state’s attorney with their conclusions? At the time of this memo, the city was fighting myriad cases levied by the wrongful conviction movement, including Northwestern. 

Why, then, didn’t the city attorneys use the Porter case to defend other cops accused of wrongdoing? After all, here was evidence that the wrongful conviction movement engaged in illegal tactics to obtain false evidence. Why didn’t the city attorneys explore this tactic and use it to defend the police? Why didn’t they ask for a special prosecutor? Why didn’t they contact the media and point out the evidence that still pointed to Porter? The wrongful conviction advocates, particularly Protess, were successful in large part because they used the media to promote their claims. Why couldn’t city attorneys at least issue some kind of public statement about their findings on the Porter case? They just wrote an internal memo, and that seems to have been that. 

Aside from this internal memo, which was clearly written so that it would not become public, there is nothing to indicate these attorneys did anything about it. One wonders: Is this what attorneys working for the city would call public service? Is this what they would call representing the police? The Porter case contained a vast body of evidence that could have informed other wrongful conviction claims, particularly those involving Northwestern. But the city attorneys apparently did nothing with it. 

It must be reassuring for Chicago Police Officers to see how aggressively city attorneys back them up. 

Part VII

The Civil Trial

As if all this wasn’t enough, then came the greatest rebuke of Devine’s decision to release Porter. 

The detectives in the Porter case had come together and fought to go to trial on the accusations that they had framed Porter. Porter’s attorneys were seeking a $24 million settlement. The detectives knew well the modus operandi of the wrongful conviction movement. Once one successful claim was made against them, a flood of new ones would follow. Inmates would begin alleging the same mistreatment, hoping it would get them sprung from prison and make them wealthy. What was there to lose? 

The two detectives, Charles Salvatore and Dennis Gray, lobbied city attorneys heavily to take the case to trial and not settle. Even though city attorneys had issued a memo in 2002 saying they thought Porter should have been retried, they waffled on the civil trial, eventually farming it out to an independent lawyer, Walter Jones.  

One wonders about this decision. If the 2002 memo indicated city attorneys thought there was still evidence against Porter, why wouldn’t the city attorneys go to trial? Why would they farm it out? Here was an opportunity to undermine a great conspiracy. The detectives were looking at the loss of almost everything they had built up: their reputations, their careers, their money, potential for a flood of lawsuits from other inmates. Why wouldn’t the city attorneys go all out for the detectives? The Porter case was a great opportunity for the city to attack the corruption within the wrongful conviction movement. But city attorneys passed. 

When Walter Jones first got the case, he planned on settling. There was so much media coverage saying Porter was innocent, Jones just assumed it was true. On top of that, the media pressure in the case was unyielding. Then Detectives Gray and Salvatore walked Jones through the evidence and their investigation. The detectives showed Jones that Porter was clearly the killer. Jones sat down and completely reinvestigated the case, interviewing every witness. He even found more witnesses who fingered Porter. Jones never found one witness who said Simon was the killer. In fact, he never found one who said Simon was even at the crime scene. Much to the relief of the detectives and the shock of the rest of the city, Jones announced he would take the case to trial.

The strategy embraced by Jones was not that they would argue the detectives did nothing wrong. Rather, they would argue that Porter was the offender. They would, in essence, retry the criminal case. Jones argued this theory in  a 2005 trial.

And won. 

After the trial, reporters approached Jones how it could be that Porter didn’t get any money. Jones pointed his finger at Porter and said because he, Porter, was the killer. 

Once again, one has to ask in the wake of this jury verdict: How many more legal proceedings and opinions would be necessary for prosecutors to re-visit the Porter case? The entire case was reviewed by Jones, who concluded Porter was guilty. Jones waltzed into a courtroom and argued this theory and won. Exactly what, then, did prosecutors need to compel them to revisit Simon’s case? 

To review: A criminal trial convicted Porter. His appeals failed. The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld Porter’s conviction. Members of the State’s Attorneys office under Devine argued against exonerating Porter and convicting Simon. The 1999 Grand Jury hearings exonerated Simon and pointed to Porter as the killer. City attorneys issued a memo saying Porter should have been retried for the murders. Attorney Walter Jones had come to see that Porter was guilty and successfully argued this theory in court. 

Why was it clear to all these people that Porter was still guilty, but the Cook County Prosecutor’s Office stymied every effort made by Simon and his attorneys to get another hearing? 

Prosecutors had released Porter on little more than a suspicious videotape, at the same time the prosecutor’s office was freeing one convicted offender after another on the flimsiest of claims by wrongful conviction advocates. Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Darrell Cannon, Ronald Kitchen…are they all dirty like the Porter case? Is this one reason why prosecutors don’t want to re-open the Porter case, because it is a pandora’s box? 

Equally important, was the prosecutor’s office hesitant to review Simon’s case because any review would lead back to the fact that Devine’s office had knowingly freed a guilty man and incarcerated an innocent one? 

Part VIII

The McKinney Case

Protess and Northwestern continued to bombard the Cook County State’s Attorney with wrongful conviction claims. Finally, Alvarez dug in on one of Protess’ wrongful conviction cases. Alvarez demanded all emails and records from students and professors involved in a wrongful conviction case for a man named Anthony McKinney, who had been convicted of murdering a security guard in 1978. 

Protess and Northwestern initially ridiculed the request by the State’s Attorney, saying the school did not have to turn over the emails because their investigation was protected by Illinois shield laws for journalists. The local media dismissed her actions as nothing more than sour grapes at having been embarrassed by Protess and the university on so many other cases. 

Not so, Alvarez argued. Protess and his students were not acting as journalists. Instead, Protess and his students were passing their information on to defense attorneys in the case. Protess and the journalism students, were, in fact, working as defense investigators, she argued.

A judge in the McKinney cased reviewed Northwestern’s investigation and issued a bombshell ruling. The judge agreed with the State’s Attorney that Protess and his students were not acting as journalists. The judge ordered that  Northwestern must turn over its records.

The music stopped at Northwestern. In the course of reviewing the materials the school was forced to turn over, the school’s attorney observed that Protess had doctored records and lied to the university and to his own attorney who quit the case because of the lies. Shifting into damage control mode, Northwestern initiated their own internal investigation into Protess. 

After the investigation, the school removed Protess from teaching his Innocence Project class —in effect, firing him. It was quite a fall for the once  internationally revered, tenured professor. His Innocence Project class had resulted in the freeing of eleven offenders at the time of his exit from the school. 

Northwestern issued a bombshell statement about Protess:

“The review uncovered numerous examples of Protess knowingly making false and misleading statements to the dean, to University attorneys, and to others. Such actions undermine the integrity of Medill, the University, the Innocence Project, students, alumni, faculty, the press, the public, the State and the Court,” the statement read.  

Protess’ malfeasance in this case, malfeasance that got him fired from his job, was never associated with his malfeasance in the Porter case. Certainly the prosecutor has not tied them together. Alvarez never indicted Protess for lying or doctoring the records, just as she never took up the Simon case for many years. 

One wonders how she couldn’t. How could she not see the vast evidence that Protess was possibly running a criminal enterprise at Northwestern, one in which Protess would do or say anything to get an offender out of prison?All this had been revealed in 1999. This was 2011. Even Northwestern was admitting that Protess was a liar and cheat. Still nothing from Alvarez and her office. 

To many people, particularly cops, lying to the courts and altering evidence has another name:  Obstruction of Justice. 

One wonders what Alvarez’s office would do to a cop who engaged in such behavior. Not only would he be indicted, but all his cases would be subject to review. He would spend the rest of his life facing criminal and civil charges, as well he should.  

 

Part IX

Conviction Integrity Unit

Finally, in 2014, after years of inaction and silence over all the evidence that pointed to Simon’s innocence, Alvarez said she would take up Alstory Simon’s conviction under the Conviction Integrity Unit, a department she created to review wrongful convictions. 

Here again, the decision casts a shadow. Alvarez demanded the investigation would remain under the auspices of her office and not be doled out to a special investigator. 

Alvarez’s demand was immediate. When one office is investigating a case where there is clear evidence of corruption from a preceding administration, there is the suspicion of coverup. Alvarez has never acknowledged the malfeasance in Devine’s office, even though it is right there in the public record.  

Even the Chicago Tribune, which was a vocal cheerleader of the wrongful conviction movement and Protess in particular, called for a special prosecutor.

“The question now is whether Alstory Simon was wrongfully convicted with help from the Innocence Project. The state's attorney's office is not in position to provide an unassailable answer. Alvarez should seek the court appointment of an independent prosecutor to sort this out,” a Tribune editorial read. 

The absence of an independent investigator is beginning to look more suspicious. 

Anthony Porter was released from death row in a few days based upon a videotape the prosecutors had never even seen. Alvarez’s “review” of the Porter case is now on its tenth month, with no end in sight.

The Porter case has been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed. Each time, the evidence points to Porter, not Simon. If Alvarez harbors any doubt about the case, she can call for a hearing to review the evidence. Put Protess on the stand. Put Ciolino on the stand. Put Simon on the stand. Put Porter there and put the detectives there. 

Unlike 1999 when Simon was convicted, a large number of people throughout the country know the facts of the case, including journalists and attorneys. Books are being written, documentaries made. Hollywood is eyeing the Porter saga.

It’s time the Cook County State’s Attorney do the right thing and bring the Porter case back where it belongs: a courtroom.  

 

 

 

 

 

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