Eric Zorn, Tribune Censoring Porter Story
As the state’s biggest wrongful conviction case continues to unravel, so do the journalists who supported it.
In the wake of a groundbreaking story by the Conviction Project about corruption in the prosecutors' office that led to the fraudulent release of Anthony Porter for a double homicide and the wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon for the same murders, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn is desperately trying to preserve a false narrative that will extricate him--and his paper--from their responsibility. Both Zorn and the Trib are also trying to hide from the fact that this is not the sole instance they have helped release a killer.
Things have gotten so bad at the Tribune that Zorn and the paper have resorted to censoring the comments section in Zorn’s columns. What makes the censorship particularly ironic, and absurd, is the fact that Zorn acknowledges in his column bombshell evidence from the very writer he then censors in his comments section. What a tangled web. One minute Zorn and the Trib are quoting the Conviction Project in their story--a story that they missed for 16 years--and the next they are censoring comments from the blog's author.
In his comments, Zorn is vainly trying to deflect all blame onto the Cook County Prosecutors, away from his own long record of deceit that helped free a killer and wrongfully convict Alstory Simon.
Consider a recent blog post by Zorn aimed at the Conviction Project and others who have condemned the long record of his participation in this scandal:
@WendyCCH Since you're following this thread, you can see how tedious and tiresome this cabal of "It's all the media's fault!" people are. You can't bring up a new aspect of this case without it turning into the same tired old screeching. To them, it's all conspiracy theories and malign intent. Look, Simon confessed and confessed and admitted and pled for months. No one I'm aware of -- not in the PD, not among his family members or friends -- made a peep about it. Epach says he did, but Devine denies it. But Epach never called his friends at the Tribune, and he has them. So he comes back years later and says he didn't do it, and we're all supposed to drop what we're doing and reinvestigate a 20 year old double murder? Hey, eight years ago I called for a new sentencing hearing on the grounds that Simon's legal representation wasn't appropriately independent. The cabal doesn't care. They just keep screeching that it's the media, it's David Protess. Now we are reminded yet again that the media and David Protess don't put people in prison, prosecutors and judges do. And it was their considered judgment to put Simon in prison. The cabal just wants to keep fouling the waters of the comment threads with their ad hominems.
Tired, old screeching?
Since when did getting an innocent man out of prison become tired old screeching? Zorn has written for decades about wrongful conviction cases. No doubt the complaints are screeching to Zorn. He was, after all, supporting the claims of Northwestern's Innocence Project in the case. Now it's clear he was wrong and that he didn't know much about the case at all. It must terrible indeed to hear from the people who did look at the facts.
It's all conspiracy theories?
Isn't that what the wrongful conviction movement is based on, that all these so called killers have been framed by the criminal justice system? Wasn't it a conspiracy theory by the likes of Zorn and the Tribune that claimed Porter was innocent and that Alstory Simon was guilty to begin with? Wasn't it a conspiracy theory claiming that the detectives framed Porter? Wasn't it their conspiracy theory that the detectives threatened witnesses, that they were so intent on framing Porter they didn't even really care who the real offender was? Wasn't it their theory that the detectives did this even though at any moment another witness or piece of evidence could emerge undermining their frame up?
Look, Simon confessed and confessed and admitted and pled for months. No one I'm aware of -- not in the PD, not among his family members or friends -- made a peep about it.
Time and again Zorn has been presented with the facts that Simon repeatedly reached out to people to tell them of his innocence before he “confessed” in court. If only Zorn or another Trib reporter had looked over some of the facts in the case and then gone and interviewed Simon, they would have known about it.
(Prosecutor Thomas) Epach, says he did, but Devine denies it. But Epach never called his friends at the Tribune, and he has them.
There is a hint of clear reasoning by Zorn. Prosecutor Thomas Epach, who knew Porter was guilty and Simon was innocent, was supposed to get ahold of the newspaper that was engaged in a blitzkrieg of anti-prosecutor stories, including the Porter case, vilifying anyone who disagreed with them? The Tribune was writing about the Porter case. Constantly. Wasn't it their job to research the facts? Aren't the journalists at the Tribune obligated to go out and look at the story themselves? Epach did what he was supposed to do. He created a Grand Jury to review the evidence and he proved once again that Porter was guilty and Simon innocent. That Grand Jury evidence has been available for any journalist to see for 14 years. Only in the last few months, thanks to the Conviction Project, has Zorn even read it. If Zorn or any journalists at the Trib had bothered to do this, they might have freed Simon from prison after only a few months. But they ignored the evidence, whether or not Epach called Zorn up and told him about it.
So he (Simon) comes back years later and says he didn't do it, and we're all supposed to drop what we're doing and reinvestigate a 20 year old double murder?
This comment is a full immersion into a twisted Zornian universe. Going back to 20-year-old murder cases is exactly what the wrongful conviction movement is all about. That's how they make their money. They’ve gone back on ancient cases hundreds of times in an effort to undermine murder convictions. All that time you’d be hard pressed to find one column by Zorn lamenting the fact. Usually Zorn can’t wait to do so. In fact, Porter was in prison for 16 years when Northwestern University decided to take it up again. You didn’t hear Eric Zorn lamenting having to go so far back then.
In the wrongful conviction industry, lawyers and activists frequently get some witness from two decades earlier to change a statement and whamo, he's innocent. These activists could always count on the support of Eric Zorn.
And yes, when your paper helped put an innocent man in prison you are supposed to drop what you are doing and get to work on it.
Hey, eight years ago I called for a new sentencing hearing on the grounds that Simon's legal representation wasn't appropriately independent.
Wow. What Zorn never mentions is that a year before he wrote a scathing column denouncing a lawyer who represented the detectives in civil court. That lawyer, Walter Jones, took the case to trial and proved once again Porter was guilty. He even found additional witnesses than the ones from the original police investigation. Porter didn’t get a dime. Here was Zorn's chance to fix the grave injustice that was the Porter exoneration, but instead he condemned the verdict and the attorney who represented them. After Zorn wrote the column meekly calling for a new hearing for Simon a year later—after he realized how badly he had screwed up-- Zorn went back to vilifying every single person who brought forward the evidence of Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence. And, of course, he never even read that evidence until a few weeks ago, thanks to the Conviction Project, whom he is now censoring. But one doesn't have to take the word from the Conviction Project. Hear what the lawyer who represented the detectives and argued that Porter was guilty had to say about Zorn's writing on the trial: