Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer

Events:

 

 

 

Filtering by Category: Anthony Porter

Police Report Key In Exoneration Scandal?

What is also mind boggling about the Porter saga is the fact that the Chicago Tribune, which publishes on an almost daily basis an article alleging police misconduct and a “code of silence,” has refused to review its own reporting on the Porter saga, including the writings of Eric Zorn and Tribune reporter Steve Mills, in the face of ever-growing evidence that the paper got the story dead wrong.  

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Zorn Bias A Heavy Burden For City

Poor Eric Zorn. 

He suffers from a malady common in Chicago. It’s called Conspiracy Bias Syndrome. 

It is an incurable condition among Chicago journalists, academics, and activists, one in which the afflicted sees conspiracy in one select subject or group, even if it is not real, but is wholly unable to see conspiracies in other places, even ones with mountains of evidence.  

Zorn’s Conspiracy Bias Syndrome revealed itself again last week in the wake of a reported $25 million counterlawsuit against a collection of people trying to right one of the greatest wrongs in the history of the city’s criminal justice system, the exoneration of a convicted killer Anthony Porter and the conviction of Alstory Simon in 1999.  

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Chicago Media Takes The Fifth...

Wrongful conviction activists and lawyers and their media lap dogs often point out that many detectives take the fifth when facing accusations of abuse against a suspect in criminal investigations. 

This taking of the fifth is, they claim, a suspicious sign of the cops’ guilt. Why else wouldn’t they testify? 

The answer to that question is fairly simple. Cops have watched law firms like the People’s Law Office, headed by G. Flint Taylor, chip away at the criminal justice system for four decades, so much so that no cop can be sure he will get a fair deal in the justice system. So a lot of cops follow the advice of their attorneys and remain silent. 

Not all do. Taylor and his ilk never mention some key cases, like the Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley, in which the detectives fought to go to civil trial in the hopes of proving to the public once again that a vicious killer set free from prison was truly guilty. In the Porter case, the detectives won. In the Hobley case, the city settled before going to trial, infuriating the detectives. It was a devastating blow to the reputation of the police department that lingers to this day.  

But it’s not just the cops who are electing to remain silent. Now it’s the Chicago media machine, and, in many ways, their silence says a lot more than the cops’.

Let’s go back to the winter of 1970. 

A married couple owned a toy shop called Wee Folks on the 1700 block of East 79th Street. A man named Darrell Cannon entered the store. Outside, a friend of his was waiting in a car. The woman answered a few questions by Cannon, who said he was looking for a toy for his nephew. But when he asked to look around some more, the woman became suspicious and pushed the holdup alarm. The husband, Emanuel Lazar, came out and approached Cannon. Cannon raised his pistol and fired five rounds, then ran out of the store into a Cadillac being driven by Cannon’s accomplice. 

Cannon was caught five days later. It was a solid case, with numerous witnesses and corroborating evidence. Cannon was convicted and sentenced to between 100 to 200 years in prison. 

Cannon appealed the conviction for a host of reasons, one of them being his claim that his sentence was excessive. He lost the appeal. Here is what the court ruled about his lengthy sentence. 

Finally, defendant contends that his sentence is excessive. We note that he was convicted of ruthlessly shooting down the elderly owner of a toy shop. The record reveals that at the hearing in aggravation and mitigation defendant, when given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf, manifested absolutely no remorse for his actions. The trial court, which of course had the opportunity to study the conduct and demeanor of defendant throughout the trial and sentencing hearing, carefully weighed his potential for rehabilitation against such factors as the nature of the crime and his character and history. In light of this record we believe that the imposition of a sentence of from 100 to 200 years was neither violative of statute nor an abuse of the trial court's discretion, and consequently we hold that it should remain undisturbed.

Well, Cannon never did much of the 100 years. In fact, he only served about ten percent of it. After eleven years, he was paroled. And, well, you know the rest of the story. In 1983 he was arrested for the murder of a drug dealer. Only this time, he was convicted in an era when offenders were claiming they were tortured into confessing by corrupt Chicago cops, in particular former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men. 

The claims were taken up by Taylor and his law firm.

Under these claims that he was tortured, Cannon’s lawyers got the courts to toss his conviction, and prosecutors declined to try him again. He went free, the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar at the toy store all but forgotten in the magical transformation of a killer into a folk hero. 

He didn’t just get his freedom. Darrell Cannon became Flint Taylor’s poster child in Taylor’s crusade to get so-called torture victims reparations from the city, a crusade Taylor won recently when the city approved a total of $5.5 million to be paid out to fifty-seven convicted felons, often killers, claiming Burge and his men abused them.

Cannon reportedly received a part of that reparations settlement.

Taylor’s strong-arming of the city council for the reparations agreement came even amid a mounting body of evidence that there is as much corruption in the wrongful conviction movement as there ever was in any police district. But it is a mark of the political power Taylor has garnered in the city that he prevailed despite this evidence.  

Weather Underground, allies of the People's Law Office

In an exclusive interview with Crooked City, Jon Burge assailed the torture reparations to Cannon, claiming that Cannon had committed three murders, including the murder of Lazar, and that he was a high-ranking member of the El Rukns, one of the most vicious gangs ever formed in an American city.  

The chief spokesmen for G. Flint Taylor's reparations campaign are Darryl Cannon and Anthony Holmes. Cannon is a former El Rukn General who has been convicted of three separate murders in his long career, pleading guilty to the last one after cutting a deal for "time served." His first murder conviction was as a juvenile, so the police can't mention it, but I can. He still stands convicted of all three murders.

What does any of this this have to do with taking the fifth? Well, now another group is exercising their right to remain silent, the Chicago media, this time over the brutal murder of a 76-year-old man on the far south side. 

The man’s name was Claude Cannon.  According to news reports, he was shot numerous times in his home, gunned down, just like Emanuel Lazar was more than five decades ago. 

According to news reports, Claude Cannon has a brother and roommate, none other than Darrell Cannon. Darrell told the media he did not discover the body in his own house until the day after the murder. 

Cannon also made another interesting statement to the media. 

"To come in and see your brother laying there with a hole in his head in the fetal position as if he was praying... I never seen anything like that before in my life," Cannon said.

Cannon has never seen anything like that before in his life? What about the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar in 1970? 

Such a story in any other city would initiate an intense media investigation. A man with murder convictions already under his belt getting a settlement from the city, and then his brother murdered just a few months later, well, that would be an irony, a twist of fate no decent journalist could resist looking into.  

But Chicago is not a city with a free press. Rather, the media is controlled by a collection of ideologically sympathetic editors, reporters, and columnists who dictate what the public will hear and what they won’t. 

The absolute silence by the media in the wake of the murder of Claude Cannon is a sign of this media machine. Guided by papers like the Tribune and journalists like Steve Mills, Eric Zorn, John Conroy, Carol Marin, and Mick Dumke, among others, they have carefully constructed a narrative about the police and criminals. Darrell Cannon is a central component of that narrative. 

Anything that could tarnish this narrative is strictly out of bounds.

Verboten.  

What a contrast. Just a few months ago, when Cannon won his reparations, his story and his image were splashed across every newspaper. He was being interviewed everywhere. 

It is this silence by the media throughout the entire city that proves Chicago has no freedom of the press, that the imaginative life of the city follows tyrannical party lines more akin to a place like Cuba than a legitimate democracy. 

Else they would all be asking some fervent questions about the vicious execution of an old man on the far south side of the most Crooked City.

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns.

Failure to Represent?

Retired Chicago Detective Charles Salvatore was riding high in 2005. He had done something no other Chicago detective had ever pulled off. He had completely destroyed a wrongful conviction claim against his partner and himself in civil court. 

It was one of the biggest legal victories in the history of the department, and it had been a long, long road for the south side sergeant who had started his career in 1968. Initially, the City of Chicago was going to settle the case against him and write a check for millions of dollars to Anthony Porter, a gang thug who had been released from prison through the efforts of David Protess at the Innocence Project of Northwestern University. 

Porter had been convicted in 1983 of murdering a couple in Washington Park in the course of a robbery. But then Protess and his Northwestern investigators got involved, suddenly announcing Porter was innocent. In order to free Porter, Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino, and the Northwestern students had coerced another man, Alstory Simon, to confess to the murders. Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison. 

Porter’s exoneration from prison had made international news and placed Protess and Northwestern in the media spotlight. The image of Porter running out of prison—out of death row—into the embracing arms of David Protess was played over and over again in the media all over the world. The entire population of the Illinois prison system watched and told themselves if Porter could get out, so could they. Many of them would. 

But the real impact of the Anthony Porter exoneration would reveal itself in the years after he was exonerated in 1999. 

Former Governor George Ryan would claim that watching Porter’s exoneration on television changed his thinking about the criminal justice system, and, in particular, the death penalty. To most police officers, such a claim was an eye roller. At the time of his announcement, Ryan was already setting new lows in political corruption, and the sudden crusade he undertook in the wake of the Porter exoneration smacked of deflection and political maneuvering away from a vast criminal investigation into his own administration. A strange, perverse friendship emerged between the Republican Ryan and the radical leftist wrongful conviction zealots, particularly those at Northwestern. 

In response to the Porter case, Ryan placed a moratorium on the death penalty. But that’s not all he did. Ryan held counsel with other wrongful conviction activists and academics, who somehow convinced him to issue a pardon to four other convicted killers, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange, and Stanley Howard. 

What made these exonerations so incredible was the fact that no court had ever ruled that these men were innocent. In fact, each legal proceeding reinforced their convictions. But Ryan, enjoying a cozy relationship with the activists and lawyers, was now pardoning them. These cases also resulted in large settlements. 

The magnitude of what Ryan did in the wake of the Porter case—his freeing so many convicted killers with no legal justification—is hard to overestimate. What Ryan and the activists had done was completely circumvent the entire legal process. They had effectively undermined one of western civilization’s most sacred tenants: trial by peers, with specific processes of admitting and reviewing evidence by those peers, along with the binding authority of courts based upon this process. 

In its place, they had imposed an appalling syndicate of crooked politicians and radical activists working together to free killers and fleece taxpayers. In a larger context, they conspired to undermine the criminal justice system. Prosecutors and cops spent years convicting these killers, and it was all washed away with some secret meetings with a governor, a governor who would himself soon be sent to prison. Even for Illinois, this was an unprecedented level of corruption. 

One reason Ryan was able to get away with these pardons was the failure of the union that represents Chicago Police officers, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), to speak out against it. Ryan’s pardoning of these men, along with his pardoning of Anthony Porter, was an a perfect opportunity for the union to address corruption in the wrongful conviction movement. But the union chose to do nothing, even though these pardons clearly foreboded even more fraudulent claims against the police. 

Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine called Ryan’s actions “outrageous and unconscionable.”

“These cases against these men are still before our courts, and it is the courts that should decide the issues in these cases. By his actions today the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve,’’ Devine said. 

Civil lawsuits inevitably follow the exoneration of a convicted killer. These lawsuits make wild claims about the police and prosecutors, saying their client was framed, often beaten, into confessing.  Porter’s case was no different. Soon after he was set free, lawyers filed a multi-million dollar claim against the city. Eventually Porter claimed Salvatore and his partner had tortured him. 

Salvatore knew what was at stake in the case. If Porter’s lawyers got a settlement against him on Porter’s ludicrous allegations, likely other offenders in the prison system would make similar fraudulent complaints against him, and they too could be released and make millions.  Every detective knows that is how the wrongful conviction syndicate works. Once the lawyers get a settlement in one case, suddenly all kinds of inmates begin making similar complaints as word spreads around the prison system.  

But Salvatore kept records of his cases. He reviewed his investigation into the Porter murders and knew Porter was guilty. He knew his innocence and Porter’s guilt could be proven again in the civil trial. Porter’s claims of being framed were easily refuted by the facts of his investigation, as well as Grand Jury testimony. 

But Salvatore also knew the media hoopla surrounding Porter’s exoneration drowned out his arguments and intimidated city attorneys. 

Undaunted, Salvatore spent the first years of his retirement pressing his arguments with city attorneys, demanding that they take the civil case to trial. City attorneys balked, passing the case off to a private attorney, Walter Jones. At first, Jones was going to settle, but after Salvatore explained the police investigation and walked Jones through the crime scene, Jones saw Porter was guilty. They went to trial and won. Jones’ strategy argued not the detectives were guilty of any wrongdoing, but that Porter was guilty. Porter got nothing. 

The trial verdict was a crucial moment and a great opportunity for the law enforcement community, none more so than the FOP. After all, here was the most influential wrongful conviction case in the state’s history suddenly and completely obliterated. At the time of the civil trial in 2005, the wrongful conviction movement had become a cottage industry in Chicago. Several law firms with a history of anti-police radicalism were leveling the exact same accusations against the police that Porter’s lawyers and Northwestern had. Dozens of detectives were facing similar lawsuits. 

With the evidence that Salvatore had dug up against Northwestern, along with the growing evidence that Protess was lying about the case, that he bribed witnesses, that he had knowingly released a guilty man, and knowingly framed an innocent one, the FOP could have mortally damaged the wrongful conviction movement. The opportunities are too many to list. But just think if the FOP had confronted prosecutors and the media with the evidence of corruption at Northwestern all the way back in 2005 in the wake of the civil case. Imagine if the FOP had demanded the prosecutor take a long look at what was going on at Northwestern in light of the Porter scandal. 

Salvatore saw the opportunities clearly. He said that after the verdict he walked up to then-FOP President Mark Donahue in 2005 and asked him about pressing the Porter case with prosecutors and the media, calling a press conference, for example, as a means of the FOP fighting back.

Donahue refused, said Salvatore. 

Equally important, detectives from other cases in which offenders had been released from prison were also aching to go to civil trial, desperate to show in yet another legal proceeding that their investigation was not only legitimate, it was right. But the city settled in many of them, enraging the detectives. 

These detectives should have been gathered together by the union and given a voice. Amassing the evidence that all these detectives could put together would have been devastating to the wrongful conviction movement. But the union did not do it. 

The movement grew over time. As it gained in wealth and celebrity, its advocates burrowed deeper into academic institutions, which gave them more legitimacy. They formed deeper alliances with the media community. There was no one they couldn’t get out of prison. The fraudulent cases lined up: Porter, Hobley, Patterson, Kitchen, Reeves, Harris…Every one of them, like the Porter case, stunk. 

Fed up, Salvatore moved into retirement, his crucial crusade to set the Porter case right, one that could have been a lethal blow to the movement, ignored by the powers that ostensibly represent the police. 

In the meantime, hundreds of other police officers, particularly detectives, felt the weight of the wrongful conviction machine. They were called down to the offices of Loevy and Loevy for the 12-hour depositions, lying awake at night wondering what would happen to their careers and their retirement. The city generally settled the cases with the law firms, making the firms and their clients filthy rich. And with every settlement, the activists could push the mythology that the police were racist thugs once again. The FOP did little to nothing to fight these settlements. The cops were left to fend for themselves with attorneys provided by the city. 

No conspiracy can last forever. The evidence that Protess at Northwestern was committing crimes in his efforts to free inmates increased. Even Northwestern couldn’t deny it after a while. In 2011, the school fired Protess, admitting that he regularly lied about his cases to them. They admitted he had altered evidence in another wrongful conviction case and they sent him on his way.

Lying? Altering evidence? Wouldn’t this have been a perfect opportunity for the FOP to ask a crucial question of both the media and the prosecutor: Why wasn’t Protess indicted? Why are cops indicted for these offenses but not a professor from Northwestern? Isn’t this evidence of malfeasance particularly damning in light of Protess’ conduct in the Porter case? How ‘bout an Op/Ed piece in the Tribune, asking these questions? How ‘bout the Op/Ed piece also asking why not one other wrongful conviction law firm, some of whom worked closely with Protess and Northwestern, ever observed these abuses or took action on them? Is this a sign that these firms are all working in concert, the FOP could ask. 

Rather than being indicted, Protess moved out of Northwestern and formed his own Innocence Project downtown, called the Chicago Innocence Project (CHIP), carrying on with his mission to release criminals. He met with some success. Protess’ CHIP took credit for the release of Stanley Wrice, a convicted rapist whose crime was so cruel and offensive he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. After Protess got Wrice free, Wrice’s lawyers filed for a Certificate of Innocence, but the judge refused it, saying he believed Wrice was guilty and that the recantation witnesses Protess brought forth were lying. 

The FOP remained silent once again. It could have confronted Protess, the media, and the prosecutor on yet another glaring sign of corruption that should merit greater scrutiny of every Protess case, going back to his tenure at Northwestern. Here was a rapist convicted of also burning the victim so badly she was airlifted to the Loyola burn unit, and a judge is now saying he was guilty. 

More evidence of corruption emerged in the movement last year. Another key wrongful conviction case imploded when judges ruled they believed recantation witnesses brought forth by movement law firms were lying. The witness, Willie Johnson, pleaded guilty to perjury. This case involved three wrongful conviction law firms/law departments, Loevy and Loevy, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University. Here were more clear signs that the entire movement was bringing forth fraudulent witnesses, just as David Protess at Northwestern did.

The FOP did nothing, said nothing.  

Nevertheless, without any assistance from the union, the Conviction Project and a community of lawyers, private investigators, and a journalist pressed the Cook County State’s Attorney to release from prison Alstory Simon, the man framed for the murders that Porter committed. This group claimed Simon was coerced into confessing by Protess, Ciolino, and the Northwestern investigators. Members of this group sat down with FOP members and begged for some assistance, begged for some cooperation with the union, but got little response. 

One wonders why a ragtag collection of people were putting pressure on the state’s attorney, but the FOP never took up the cause. Isn’t this really the kind of work the FOP should be engaged in, protecting detectives who are falsely accused? 

In response to the allegations made by the Conviction Project and its allies, as well as the evidence they uncovered, the prosecutor released Simon after a year-long review, assailing Protess and Northwestern in the process, calling their conduct likely criminal.

This ruling, along with all the evidence garnered from the three decades of the Porter saga, was more than enough for the FOP to finally do battle with the wrongful conviction movement on behalf of its members. Here it is the prosecutor’s office reversing a wrongful conviction cases and suggesting that the movement activists were acting illegally. 

Once again, though, the FOP remained completely silent. 

Remember when Ryan let out four killers after the Porter exoneration, without any legal basis whatsoever? Remember how David Protess was fired from Northwestern, how the school and prosecutors admitted he lied about his cases and manipulated evidence, but was never charged? Remember how the union did nothing to stop these abuses against their members? Well, it got much, much worse. 

The power of this movement reached a new and depraved low this year. The wrongful conviction movement sailed along for years getting inmates out on the claim that they were tortured or coerced by police. But this time they were able to garner the release of an inmate who actually attempted to murder police officers. 

In the waning moments of Governor Pat Quinn’s scandal-plagued administration, Quinn secretly commuted the sentence of Howard Morgan, a man who had been convicted of attempting to murder four police officers on a traffic stop in 2005, wounding three of them. One of officers was saved only because of his vest. These officers endured a nine-year battle to get Morgan convicted, as the wrongful conviction playbook was hurled at them throughout two criminal trials, a playbook that attempted to make them the villains, not Morgan, despite the overwhelming evidence against Morgan. 

And who took credit for springing Morgan? 

None other than David Protess, who boasted about the fact that his organization freed Morgan, the same David Protess who framed the detectives in the Porter case, who altered evidence in another case, lied to Northwestern University and was fired, the same David Protess whose conduct the prosecutor assailed when she let Alstory Simon out of prison, a man Protess had framed for murders he didn’t commit. 

Perhaps if the FOP had stood up to Northwestern back in 1999, Protess would have been disgraced, or eventually criminally charged, and not been able to pull off freeing Morgan years later. Perhaps if the union had spoken out after the Porter civil trial once again proved the Northwestern case was a fraud. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps…well, so it goes.   

And the FOP’s response to Morgan’s release from prison after being convicted of four counts of attempted murder? A hasty, tepid, poorly written post and email blast on their website condemning the decision by the governor. 

Chicago Police live in a world of unrelenting irony. Killers become victims, Detectives become criminals. Prosecutors seem to be working for the defense. The three-decade failure of the FOP to confront the evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement begs one more level of this irony. 

That irony takes shape in the union itself, as if even the FOP, the institution that ostensibly represents the police, is just another cog in the Crooked City.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northwestern Lawsuit Puts Entire City on Trial

Much more than $40 million is at stake in a blockbuster lawsuit against Northwestern University.

The lawsuit by attorneys representing Alstory Simon claims Simon was coerced into confessing by Northwestern investigators to a double murder he didn’t commit. It seeks compensation for the 15 years Simon spent in prison. Northwestern’s Professor David Protess and his private investigator, Paul Ciolino, are also named.

In convicting Simon, his lawyers claim the real killer, Anthony Porter, was set free.

It’s a claim that violates the orthodoxy of Chicago politics and criminal justice, claiming that wrongful conviction activists are guilty of the worst wrongful conviction in the state’s history.

Simon’s attorneys are no lone voice in the woods. In October of last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez blasted Protess and Ciolino’s conduct in the case when she announced she was setting Simon free after a year-long review of the case. Alvarez cited actions by Protess and Ciolino in particular, saying they were quite likely criminal.

In response, Northwestern pulled in the big guns to defend itself, reportedly hiring the law firm of Jenner and Block in the civil lawsuit.

Jenner and Block’s role in the case, however, may be much more than simply defending a client. In many ways, they are defending what is now known as the wrongful conviction movement, which includes their own law firm.

 The reason is that over the last ten years a vast body of evidence has slowly emerged revealing tactics in this movement every bit as dirty, illegal, and cruel as any leveled against Chicago Police officers.

Much of this evidence comes to light in the Simon lawsuit: bribed testimony, perjury, obstruction of justice, framing an innocent man and knowingly exonerating a guilty man.  

As the reputation of Northwestern plummets and their legal and civil liability becomes exposed in light of this evidence, other wrongful conviction law firms and university departments wonder: will theirs?

It’s entirely possible. The Porter is not an anomaly; it is an allegory. It will inevitably reveal similar tactics by other activists and law firms in which they fraudulently released killers and rapists from prison, and framed cops.

In short, a modus operandi in the wrongful conviction movement is now unfolding.  

Here’s how it works. Wrongful conviction law firms wait at least a decade until witnesses have scattered or died off. They begin “investigating” and suddenly “discover” a new witness or one who is changing their original statement, a witness who has everything to gain by changing their statement and nothing to lose. They obtain the assistance of the local media, who never attempt to actually investigate the story.

They claim the police coerced a confession, even by torturing a suspect, often with no evidence save the claims by the convicted offender. They then implement an extensive public relations campaign against weak-willed prosecutors so that prosecutors will decline to retry the case.

The vilification of the police—without any evidence—is the most common theme in the movement.

Jenner and Block is no objective third party. The law firm is also prolific in the movement, making cases by vilifying the police with little or no evidence, right along with Northwestern.

Consider a pivotal wrongful conviction case Jenner and Block and the school worked on, one that involved the alleged murder of a child.

Police responded to a call of a dead child at Resurrection Hospital in May of 2005. There they discovered four-year-old Jaquari Harris, who had apparently died from strangulation from a cord around his neck. At first, detectives did not suspect any foul play. The death appeared accidental. Jaquari’s mother, Nicole Harris, made no statements that aroused their suspicion.

However, when detectives returned to the crime scene and conducted a canvas, meaning they interviewed neighbors, they obtained statements from them that contradicted Nicole Harris’ narrative.

When the detectives confronted her, Harris spontaneously admitted that she strangled Jaquari because she was upset that he had left the house when she had gone to the laundromat. Harris also gave a videotaped confession in front of a prosecutor.

At trial, however, Harris changed her story. She claimed that the detectives pushed her and threatened her, forcing her to confess. She claimed she told prosecutors about this coercion, but they ignored her.

The jury didn’t believe the coercion story. They were out just two hours. They convicted Harris, and she was sentenced to thirty years.

Harris’ lawyers appealed the decision. There was discrepancy in the evidence, they claimed, particularly about the cord used to strangle the child. There were conflicting statements in the confession of Harris, they also claimed.

Two lower court appeals by Harris failed. But when lawyers at Northwestern’s Law School and Jenner and Block brought the case to the federal appeals court, they won. The central issue in that appeal was the fact that Jaquari’s brother was not allowed to testify at the trial.

The federal appeals court reversed the conviction, but left it up to prosecutors to retry Harris. Crucially, the court did not declare Harris innocent.

The media jumped on the case, giving full voice to Jenner and Block and Northwestern. As in so many wrongful conviction cases, prosecutors balked. Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez declined to retry the case, leaving her own prosecutors who had worked on the case and the detectives in the lurch.

After Harris was freed, her lawyers faced a crucial hurdle: the Certificate of Innocence. Whenever an offender is exonerated, their attorneys file a petition asking the court to declare their client’s innocence.

Obtaining the certificate lays the groundwork for a civil lawsuit and intimidates city attorneys representing the detectives from going to civil trial. If a judge grants a Certificate of Innocence, it’s that much harder for city attorneys to maintain that the detectives did nothing wrong.

True to form of a weak-willed, machine-hack politician, Alvarez declined to contest the innocence petition, selling out the detectives and her own prosecutors once again.

Keep in mind a jury found Harris guilty. That jury heard Harris’ claims that she was coerced and rejected them. The trial judge saw nothing improper. He sentenced Harris to 30 years. Two appeals courts backed the conviction, also rejecting the coercion claims.

The federal appeals cited anomalies in the trial and threw out the conviction, leaving the prosecutor with the option of trying it again. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement that Harris is innocent, nor is it an endorsement of her claim that she was coerced into confessing.

Wrongful conviction cases are built upon a central myth: That the police are evil racists who do not care about justice or getting the right offender. They also have no qualms about framing someone for a crime, even in the case of a child whose death might be accidental.

This mythology was on full display in the Harris case.

From the Sun Times:

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, claims interrogators coerced her over the course of 28 hours into making a false confession that led to her conviction. The suit names the city, Cook County, two assistant state’s attorneys and eight police officers.

It claims detectives fabricated a confession that Harris had gotten angry and strangled her son. Interrogators rehearsed the confession with Harris before she “regurgitate[ed] the details the defendant officers had provided to her” in a videotaped statement, the suit claims.

Harris made the confession “after enduring over 20 hours of interrogation and abuse,” the suit claims.

It’s a pretty amazing claim. Prosecutors and eight detectives all conspired to get Harris to confess to murdering her own child when they could have chalked the murder up to an accidental death and gone home for the night?

While coercing a confession from a suspect in a police murder or from a vicious gang member suspected of killing several people falls within the realm of the feasible, coercing a confession from a mother in what would otherwise be an accidental death requires a fantastic leap of imagination, even for wrongful conviction activists.

What would the detectives possibly care about framing Nicole Harris? What kind of monsters would want to impose a murder charge on a woman who just lost her son? And not just one or two detectives, but eight?

Only the mythology that Chicago detectives are so evil they would risk their reputations, their livelihood, even their freedom, to pin the murder on an innocent person. Only within this framework does the Harris lawsuit have any basis.

The narrative gets even worse, though. In the Harris case, prosecutors also took her confession. The “coerced” confession theory would mean that the prosecutors were also involved in framing Harris, for Harris testified that she told the prosecutors about being coerced by the detectives. Sure enough, Harris’ attorney also name prosecutors in the civil lawsuit.

This is when the Harris case moves into another level of lunacy. Anyone with even a remote knowledge of police and prosecutors in Chicago knows there is a deep distrust between the two entities. That one group would co-conspire in the framing of a murder case—one involving a child--is a new level of the absurd.

Eight detectives and a few prosecutors met somewhere in the police station and agreed to frame this woman and they all went along with it?

“You know what, Joe? I don’t care that this woman just lost her child. We’re going to put a murder case on her.”

“Sounds good to me. I got nothing going on tonight. I’ll go see if the prosecutors will bite. By the way, how bout Chinese tonight?”

“Chinese sounds good.”

They all stuck together throughout the entire criminal trial, the appeals and now the civil lawsuit?

It is a mark of the power in this anti-police myth that it can have such influence over the legal system and the media, that such a claim could take shape in the criminal justice system. It is also a mark of the power of this myth that prosecutors like Alvarez would lie down and let Harris possibly become wealthy from such frivolous, insane claims in a lawsuit.

How does this come to be?

The demonization of the police in this case--and so many other wrongful conviction claims—is rooted in an intense radicalism guiding the wrongful conviction movement. In the mid-eighties, wrongful conviction law firms were able to push their claims against a few Chicago Police Officers in the courts, the political system, and the media.

But now it is clear those claims were worked into a larger mythology about the police, one that was then used to undermine clearly legitimate cases. It was used when the police were only trying to do their job, like the Harris case. In doing so, these law firms and activists reveal their intent all along was to wage a war on the police and the criminal justice system, not right some perceived injustice.

Another sign of the radicalism and malevolence at the heart of the wrongful conviction movement is what happened to the Harris case after Jenner and Block and Northwestern sprang her from prison. It went to the People’s Law Office (PLO).

Notice how wrongful conviction cases are passed around, from one law firm/university department to another. First it was Northwestern Law School and Jenner and Block. Now the PLO is overseeing it. Clearly there is an open line of communication and strategizing among these firms and universities. Why, then, one wonders, did none of these firms ever mention the conspiracy against Alstory Simon when they got together? If they were so concerned about the injustice of wrongful convictions, why was there no outrage as the evidence in that case came to light?

The PLO has a dark resume when it comes to the police and prosecutors. In fact, they have a dark resume when it comes to violent revolutionary groups in general. Their client list includes FALN terrorists, who set off hundreds of bombs throughout the country; Black Panthers, who murdered dozens of police officers; and the three offenders at the NATO summit accused of making molotov cocktails that they reportedly planned on throwing at police. The PLO resume reveals that almost any person or group willing to wage war on American institutions will garner their support, even terrorists.

Then there is Bernadine Dorhn, who signifies another disturbing bridge between the PLO and Northwestern. Dohrn is a founding member of the terrorist group the Weather Underground.

Dohrn spent the 1970s setting off bombs throughout the country in an effort to initiate a Marxist revolution at home. A close associate of the founding members of the PLO, Dohrn was eventually hired at Northwestern and worked on wrongful conviction cases there.

To get a clear vision of the radicalism and rage that fuels Dohrn and her associates, consider this statement she made in the wake of the famous Manson murders:

“Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”

Just as the Weather Underground started in Chicago after the 1968 riots then spread throughout the country, so has the wrongful conviction movement, as one university and law firm after another has seen the benefits of adopting it.

Virtually every big city in the country now has an innocence project, and law schools nationwide are also opening up departments aimed at freeing the supposedly innocent, breathing new life into university Marxist radicals who were once all but forgotten as eccentrics or nut cases.

All of these law firms and academic departments are copying the methods of Northwestern University and the People’s Law Office.

In doing so, the anti-police mythology at the core of this movement has taken root throughout the country, explaining, for example, why the media, the public, the intellectuals and many elected officials bought wholeheartedly into the conspiracy claims that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson executed Michael Brown.

Even when inquiry after inquiry refuted this scenario and showed Wilson was merely fighting for his life, a vast engine of organizers, media spin doctors and activists insisted that the conception of Wilson as a renegade, likely racist killer, was the root cause of the shooting.  The activists’ wild claims initiated riots, looting. There were molotov cocktails and bomb threats. 

Is it any wonder that a president hailing from Chicago, a former community organizer and friend of former Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, would refuse to let go of the narrative of racist police officers, even when his own justice department could find no malfeasance against Officer Wilson?

Unwilling to go away empty-handed, Obama’s anti-police crusader Eric Holder issued a scathing report claiming the Ferguson Police Department’s tactics were racist against the black community.

Approaching an Orwellian alternate universe, the report claimed that this racism laid the foundation for the riots and looting after the attack.

What about all the agitators who insisted on the narrative that Wilson was a racist executioner instilled in them after 40 years of wrongful conviction lies? Didn’t that lay some of the groundwork for the riots and the tension?

Some myths will not go down without a bloody fight.

So what is the real answer to the question why detectives would frame Harris? The answer is: They didn’t. It is only the mythology of agenda-driven law firms like the PLO and Jenner and Block, along with Northwestern rearing its ugly head in yet another murder case.

With the release of Harris, rest assured that lawyers at the PLO are scouring other cases involving these officers and prosecutors. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this exoneration industry when other convicted killers suddenly emerge in prison with similar claims against them.

But now times have changed. The whole wrongful conviction scam worked like clockwork until the Porter case imploded over the last few years. Now the truth is slowly coming out.

The true destructive intent and willful fabrications behind these murders are revealing themselves in case after case: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Ronald Kitchen, Willie Johnson, and Stanley Wrice, to name a few.

Jenner and Block clearly has their work cut out for them.

One more crucial factor in the Harris story must not go unmentioned. It is the role of the Chicago media in promoting this mythology.

The freeing of Harris likely could not have taken place without the usual collusion of the media, its willingness to place myth over the power of evidence, particularly the Chicago Tribune, which, once again, utterly failed to present the prosecution/police narrative in the case.

Shouldn’t the media, for example, have contacted key players in the prosecution side of the Harris case and heard what they had to say? Isn’t it standard practice for a journalist to hear both sides of a story? Not in Chicago, and certainly not at the Tribune when it comes to wrongful convictions.  

Well, the Conviction Project did.

The Conviction Project interviewed attorney Lawrence O’Reilly, a prosecutor at the time of the Harris confession in 2005, now in private practice. O’Reilly took a confession from Harris.

O’Reilly stated that not one Chicago reporter has ever called him and asked him about the Harris case, despite the fact that media outlets like the Tribune have published articles at every stage of the Harris exoneration, articles quoting wrongful conviction law firms at length.

Here is a newspaper giving full voice to a law firm like the People’s Law Office, despite their long association with terrorists, but not one reporter ever bothered to talk to a prosecutor in the case, one accused of framing a woman for murdering her child.

It makes one wonder if they are living in America or the Soviet Union. And It’s not just their failure to investigate both sides of a case. Writers at the paper like Eric Zorn have even begun censoring their blog and the comments section of their articles in order to avoid answering questions about the cases or bringing up contrary points of view.

In an interview with the Conviction Project, O’Reilly insisted that the Harris confession was bona fide.

“I took the statement from Harris to be absolutely truthful and accurate when she gave it to me,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly also rejected strongly any claim of malfeasance by the detectives.

O’Reilly stated, for example, that he has worked with Detective James Balodimas before the Harris case. Based on those experiences, he ridiculed any contention that Balodimas would coerce a confession from anyone.

And so it goes.

All of this leads back to the Alstory Simon lawsuit against Northwestern, with Jenner and Block representing them.

For Jenner and Block, the PLO, Northwestern, and the whole circus known as the wrongful conviction movement, this lawsuit is real trouble. It could undermine the mythology that has helped them for three decades, thereby exposing them not as crusaders for justice, but as true patriarchs of the most Crooked City.

 

 

 

 

Alstory Simon Makes Claim For Innocence

The Conviction Project pulled an Eric Zorn: We got a story completely wrong.

 Turns out lawyers for Alstory Simon did not file a petition for a Certificate of Innocence several weeks ago. They filed it just the other day.

 So we apologize.

 The petition for a Certificate of Innocence is a crucial step in the battle to bring some accountability to the wrongful conviction movement.

 The Anthony Porter exoneration is a key wrongful conviction case from 1999. Porter’s release from death row for a 1982 double murder precipitated the release of dozens of convicted killers based on the claims that police and or prosecutors conspired to frame the men. But now the evidence is mounting that Porter’s exoneration was a conspiracy by members of the Innocence Project at Northwestern University. In order to get Porter out, Professor David Protess and his Private Investigator, Paul Ciolino, and an attorney named Jack Rimland framed an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for the murders.

 Citing malfeasance by Protess, Ciolino, and Rimland, Cook County State’s Attorney freed Simon from prison several months ago. Now Simon is asking for the Certificate of Innocence.

 If the Certificate of Innocence is granted, it would be a shocking turn of events in a criminal case that spans thirty years. Porter’s 1999 exoneration was once based on the claim that Chicago Police detectives illegally framed Porter and that they ignored evidence that Simon was the killer.

 Now the tables have turned, and the evidence is showing that Northwestern investigators David Protess and Paul Ciolino were quite possibly the real criminals.

 “State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez further noted that the conduct of Protess and Ciolino in coercing Simon’s statement may have constituted the crimes of obstruction of justice and witness intimidation but that these crimes were barred by the statute of limitations,” Simon’s lawyers wrote in their petition. 

 One theme that permeates the petition by Simon’s lawyers is the strange power David Protess had over the media in the case, in defiance of the evidence. Somehow, Protess was able to “bull rush” the story that Simon was the killer without local journalists even looking at the facts of the case.

 “(Witness William) Taylor’s coerced affidavit, along with the misrepresentation and fabrications made by Protess, were intentionally calculated to create a public sentiment that would influence the prosecuting authorities to free Porter,” Simon’s layers argue.

 “Protess’ intent in releasing Simon’s false confession first to the media, instead of to the prosecuting authorities, was to create a massive public sentiment that Porter was innocent of the murders in order to improperly influence the prosecuting authorities to free Porter and prosecute Simon for the murders.”

 These are serious allegations against the Chicago media, almost as if they are co-conspirators in the case. It will be interesting to see Eric Zorn and Steve Mills from the Tribune, Mike Miner from the Chicago Reader and other journalists defend themselves from these accusations. 

 Many questions now hang in the air.

 Will Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez contest the petition? It would be a huge gamble if she did. After all, it was her own office that acknowledged possible criminal actions on the part of Ciolino and Protess. She also assailed the conduct of Simon’s original lawyer, Jack Rimland.

 Would any judge or prosecutor contest Simon’s petition in a courtroom given all the evidence of his innocence?

 One never knows in the Crooked City.

 

 

 

 

Media Still Misses Key Evidence of Prosecutor Corruption in Porter Case

One truth about corruption in Chicago is that it never seems to end. At each level of a narrative about the workings of the city, another crime or betrayal seems to unfold.

The Chicago Reader, for example, published a story about the Anthony Porter case that was first revealed on the Conviction Project blog.

The story detailed evidence of prosecutorial manipulation of the grand jury process that covered up the fraudulent exoneration of Anthony Porter and the wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon.

Uncovering a second, kangaroo grand jury created by prosecutors in 1999 that ignored evidence of Anthony Porter’s guilt reveals just how far Northwestern’s plot to exonerate a killer and frame an innocent man went: all the way to the prosecutors’ office, it seems.

But even with this new information about the second grand jury, the Reader, the Tribune and the rest of the Chicago media have yet again failed to get at the core, unequivocal evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the Porter case, and the magnitude of corruption in the case in general. Their failure is somewhat glaring, given that it has been right there in the public record for fifteen years.  

Their unwillingness makes sense. When one truly looks at the case, one question emerges that neither the Reader nor any other Chicago newspaper ever wants to ask: If the Porter case was this appallingly dirty, how many others were?

Turns out a lot of them, and the Reader was a central player in most of them. It must be a difficult thing for the staff at the Reader to deal with.

To review.

Porter had been sentenced to death row for a 1982 double homicide on the south side. Then, in 1998, Professor David Protess and his students from Northwestern University’s Innocence Project became involved in the case. In short order, they claimed Porter was innocent and another man, Alstory Simon was guilty. They obtained a “confession” from Simon to the murders.

After Simon was sent to prison, Simon claimed he was coerced by Northwestern advocates into confessing. He painted a dire picture of being threatened with violence and the death penalty and of being offered money to admit to the killings. Simon said he caved into this pressure and confessed.

For years, supporters of Simon—a collection of cops, retired cops, lawyers, a journalist, and few private detectives--have pointed out a vast body of evidence bolstering Simon’s claims. They also pointed to evidence that showed Porter was the killer after all. In fact, since Simon was arrested in 1999, the evidence that sprang him from prison has been out in the open. Nevertheless, those advocating for Simon were largely ignored by the local media, then completely vilified. For it is the most common tactic of those in the wrongful conviction movement and their supporters in the media to vilify anyone who questions a wrongful conviction claim.

But finally, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was convinced to look at the case again. She eventually freed Simon and assailed the conduct of the Protess-led Northwestern team for violating Simon’s rights. But Alvarez said she could find no evidence of wrongdoing by her predecessor, Dick Devine.

A close look at the records of a six-month period between February and September of 1999 reveals these claims by Alvarez hold little water.

In that period, Prosecutor Dick Devine’s administration was already under fire from the Chicago Tribune in a series of relentless, and largely false, articles about wrongful convictions. Then came Northwestern University’s claims that a death row inmate, Anthony Porter, was innocent of a brutal double homicide in 1982. Northwestern argued that another man, Alstory Simon, was guilty of the killings.

Buckling under this intense pressure from a local media, Devine let Porter of prison and took Simon into custody, based largely on the “confession” Northwestern’s Paul Ciolino obtained from Simon.  It is now clear that the media, which was cheerleading the Northwestern team, had not bothered to look into any of the facts of the Northwestern claims.

In February of 1999, dissension broke out at in the prosecutors’ office over the decision to free Porter and arrest Simon. One prosecutor, Thomas Epach, who was chief of the criminal division, knew the case inside out. He knew Porter was guilty and Simon never had anything to do with the murders.

Epach called for a grand jury, aimed at putting the Northwestern claims under a microscope. It worked. Over the course of February, 1999, Epach’s grand jury, headed by another prosecutor named Thomas Gainer, eviscerated the Northwestern claims. Included in the grand jury was testimony by several key witnesses the detectives had met after they returned to the crime scene the day after the murders in 1982. These witnesses were crucial because they confirmed the testimony of other witnesses gathered from the crime scene. All these witnesses fingered Porter. Not one of them ever mentioned Alstory Simon.

Here are the statements of these witnesses taken in the February, 1999 grand jury.

Witness Kenneth Edward:

Question: As you sit here today, as you sit here today, can you tell this grand jury who it was that fired those shots?

 Edwards: I sure can.

 Question: Who was it?

 Edwards: It was Tony Porter

Witness Mark Senior:

Senior: They were in the northwest corner of the bleachers.

 Question: Top or the bottom of the bleachers.

 Senior: Top

 Question: As you sit here today, to the best of your recollection, do you know who any of those four or five people were?

Senior: One.

 Question: Who?

 Senior: Anthony Porter

Witness Eugene Beckwith:

 Question: How many people did you see sitting up there high at the north end of the grandstand?

 Beckwith: I saw four individuals.

 Question: Now, as you sit here before this grand jury today, do you know whether or not you knew any of those four people?

 Beckwith: Well, I recognized one of them.

Question: And what was that person’s name that you recognized:

 Beckwith: His name was Tony Porter.

This Epach grand jury placed two great burdens on Dick Devine’s administration.

Because all the witnesses at the crimes scene pointed to Porter, and not Simon, this initial grand jury would never indict Simon for the murders. But Devine had already charged him. Devine had already let Porter go free.

Devine’s solution was to call a second grand jury. This second grand jury never heard from witnesses like the men above. Instead, they heard only the statements of a few witnesses implicating Simon. Their statements were highly doubtful. Later, these witnesses even recanted their testimony fingering Simon. Their recantations left not one witness fingering Simon for the murders.  

This second grand jury, clearly aimed at avoiding the evidence revealed in the first, paints a dark picture of Devine’s administration. The members of this second grand jury, hearing none of the evidence in the first, voted to indict the hapless Simon.

Armed with an indictment against Simon, Devine and Gainer proceeded to the sentencing hearing, where the hapless Simon was to plead guilty, as part of his secret agreement with Northwestern investigators, who had coerced him into pleading guilty.  

This sentencing hearing posed an even more ominous burden to Devine and Gainer. It was their duty to reveal any exculpatory evidence against Simon. And from the first Grand Jury, there was plenty of it. Nevertheless, Gainer walked into the sentencing hearing and lied.  

Here’s how he did it. As part of the proceeding, Gainer was obligated to tell the judge the basic theory on how he would have convicted Simon had the case gone to trial. This explanation is a safeguard in the system, forcing the prosecutor to outline the criminal theory of his prosecution. During this process Gainer described how he would prove Simon guilty for the murders if they had proceeded to trial.

“We would also call at trial three other witnesses, a man by the name of Mark Senior, Michael Woodfork and Eugene Beckwith.”

But Gainer knew from the first grand jury that these men all fingered Porter. They never mentioned Alstory Simon. There is no way they would go to a trial and finger Simon. They didn’t even know who he was. So how could Gainer say he would call them to testify in a trial against Simon?

It was a blatant lie by the prosecutor.

There were two more instances of lying in the hearing. Gainer was also obligated to reveal exculpating evidence against Simon. That evidence existed in the first grand jury based on the testimony of other witnesses, including members of the Northwestern team. He failed to do so. He also failed to disclose that a key witness by the name of William Taylor would identify Anthony Porter as well.

Consider again this key eyewitness testimony by Kenneth Edwards:

Question: As you sit here today, as you sit here today, can you tell this grand jury who it was that fired those shots?

 Edwards: I sure can.

 Question: Who was it?

 Edwards: It was Tony Porter

Not only did Gainer lie and mislead Judge Thomas Fitzgerald, so did Simon’s attorney, Jack Rimland. Rimland had been obtained by Northwestern investigators as part of the ruse to frame Simon. Rimland lied to the trial judge, saying there was no exculpating evidence against Simon, when he knew there was.

That’s three instances of lying by attorneys on both sides of the aisle, lies aimed at knowingly convicting an innocent man.

Alstory Simon never had a chance.

In the face of these transcripts, several crucial questions emerge.

How can it be that the local media, which has been covering the Porter case since 1998, not have observed this evidence? In particular is the Chicago Tribune. Reporters at the paper, including Steve Mills, were hoping that their reporting, all of it in support of the Northwestern scam against Simon, would garner a Pulitzer Prize. Yet now it is clear they never even bothered to look at the documents in the case.

How can Anita Alvarez maintain that her office conducted a thorough investigation of the case for more than a year and not note the clear prosecutorial misconduct by Gainer and Devine? How can her claims vindicating her predecessor, Dick Devine, be taken seriously? The second grand jury, the lying at the sentencing hearing. Clearly Alvarez observed it during her investigation…

Stay tuned. It’s bound to get worse in the Crooked City…

Certificate of Innocence Filed by Alstory Simon...

A petition for a Certificate of Innocence has reportedly been filed by attorneys representing Alstory Simon, a man recently released from 15 years in prison by Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez. 

Simon's request for the certificate is necessary to get paid for his years of being locked up for a double homicide he didn't commit. It is also clearly one more step in a process of taking legal action against those that put him in prison, including Northwestern University, former Professor David Protess, and Private Investigator Paul Ciolino. 

Simon was convicted in 1999 of a double homicide, a conviction which led to the release of Anthony Porter for the same murders. Northwestern investigators claimed Porter was innocent of the killings and obtained a bizarre--and clearly illegal-- confession from Simon. It was Simon's confession that paved the way for Porter's release. 

After a year-long review of the case, Alvarez petitioned for Simon's release, saying Northwestern investigators and an attorney they obtained for Simon, Jack Rimland, had violated Simon's constitutional rights. But the prosecutor would not state whether she believed Simon was innocent of the killings.

Alvarez also stated her investigation could find no wrongdoing by prosecutors who accepted Simon's confession, a claim that left many people familiar with the case scratching their head.

How could she see the corruption in the case, but not her predecessors?  

 

 

The Ham Sandwich

Among cops, lawyers, and others familiar with the criminal justice system, there is an old saying: A grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. 

The saying illuminates the broad powers afforded a prosecutor to get a grand jury to indict a suspect. The prosecutor can pick and choose the witnesses and evidence he wants to bring forward. There are more lenient rules in a grand jury than there are in a trial, including rules regarding hearsay evidence. Whenever prosecutors have a weak case, they often rely on the grand jury process to get the indictment they want. And when a grand jury refuses to indict, it is a crippling blow to a prosecutor’s case. 

But explosive, never before publicly revealed documents uncovered by the Conviction Project reveal abuses in the grand jury process that paint a chilling picture of corruption in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

These documents reveal a pattern of apparent manipulation by prosecutors in 1999 to bury evidence that showed Anthony Porter was the killer and knowingly indicted an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for the same murders. 

The Anthony Porter case was one of the most influential wrongful conviction cases in the state’s history, one that played a crucial role in ending the death in Illinois. Porter was freed in 1999 after Northwestern University’s Innocence project claimed Porter was guilty and another man, Alstory Simon, was the offender. Northwestern’s claims about Simon being guilty, sixteen years after the murders, flew in the face of the entire police investigation. No police investigator ever encountered a witness who mentioned the name Alstory Simon. Every witness they talked to said the killer was Anthony Porter. 

Nevertheless, members of the Innocence Project, headed by then professor David Protess, obtained in 1999 an illegal confession from Simon to the murders. Protess’ private investigator, Paul Ciolino, recorded this alleged confession during a bizarre and potentially violent confrontation with Simon at Simon’s apartment in February of 1999. Armed with this videotaped confession, Northwestern investigators claimed it was conclusive evidences of Porter’s innocence and Simon’s guilt. Based largely on this recording, prosecutors released Porter and took Simon into custody.

There was one major problem, which remained hidden from the public. The prosecutor at the State’s Attoney’s Office in 1999 who was the most familiar with the Porter case, Thomas Epach, did not buy the Northwestern claims. He believed Porter was guilty and Simon was innocent. He should know. As chief of the criminal division, he was the foremost expert on the case. Despite the fact that then State’s Attorney Dick Devine had released Porter and taken Simon into custody, Epach stated in a recent affidavit that he confronted Devine in 1999 about the overwhelming evidence against Porter. Despite Epach telling Devine that Porter was guilty, Devine left Porter free and had Simon jailed in the county jail to await sentencing. 

Furious at what he thought was a great injustice taking place in the prosecutor’s office, Epach formed his own grand jury, unbeknown to his boss Dick Devine, with the intent of dissecting the Northwestern investigation and showing exactly who was guilty of the murders. 

Epach drew up the witness list and instructed his colleague, Thomas Gainer, to question the witnesses to the shooting, as well as the Northwestern investigators. In a short time, Gainer showed that Epach was correct. The entire Northwestern theory collapsed during this grand jury hearing. Gainer revealed that the Northwestern investigators had done little to investigate the case. He showed clearly that Northwestern investigators and attorney Jack Rimland, obtained to “represent” Simon by Protess and Ciolino, conspired to frame Simon for the murders.

Epach’s heroic decision to convene a grand jury and reveal the fraudulence of the Northwestern investigation placed a huge burden on Dick Devine’s office. Devine had already released Porter and taken Simon into custody. Now a grand jury convened by one of his own prosecutors had ripped apart any legal basis to release Porter or indict Simon. The grand jury revealed that prosecutors had bought into a massive conspiracy. 

The Epach grand jury testimony also reveals that few jurors were buying the Northwestern theory. Their questions to witnesses clearly suggest there is no way they would have voted to indict Simon. And if they didn’t, it would be a stunning rebuke of Devine’s conduct, the fact that his administration bowed to the pressure of a renegade Northwestern professor and his students, freed a killer and incarcerated an innocent man. 

What happened next at the prosecutors’ office defies belief. According to records recently obtained by the Conviction Project, it appears that Devine’s office manipulated the grand jury process to specifically hide the evidence of Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence.

Prosecutors did so by convening a new Grand Jury in March of 1999, weeks after the first grand jury expired. In this second grand jury, the entire body of evidence introduced during the first grand jury that revealed Northwestern’s claims were a fraud were ignored. Instead, according to court transcripts in this second grand jury, prosecutor Thomas Gainer, who just a few weeks earlier was ripping apart the Northwestern theory that Porter was innocent and Simon guilty, called just two witnesses to the stand, a Chicago Police Detective and Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack. 

In a brief kangaroo hearing on March 24, 1999, these two investigators were questioned only about witnesses who claimed Simon was the killer. All other witnesses pointing to Porter as the killer were ignored, as was the evidence of malfeasance by Protess, Ciolino, Rimland and the Northwestern students. Also ignored was the original police investigation, which also showed clearly Porter was the killer. 

And who were the witnesses the detective and assistant state’s attorney talked to in preparation for the second grand jury? They were witnesses all obtained by Northwestern investigators, all witnesses who would later recant their entire claims about Simon being the killer. These witnesses would also state in their recantations that they made fraudulent statements against Alstory Simon only as part of a conspiracy with then Northwestern Professor David Protess. 

Once again, in this second grand jury, witnesses to the actual shooting who testified in the first grand jury were ignored. Testimony from Protess and his students that showed they hadn’t looked into the case at all were ignored. The evidence that Northwestern investigators had bribed and intimidated witnesses to change their statements was also ignored. 

In short, prosecutors knowingly ignored the vast exculpatory evidence of Alstory Simon they had amassed in the first grand jury and manipulated the second to ensure that only testimony from a few suspicious witnesses was introduced to jurors. They did so to secure an indictment against Simon. And it worked. Hearing only about the statements of these dubious witnesses, members of the second grand jury reflexively voted to indict the hapless Alstory Simon, now the biggest ham sandwich in the state’s history. 

The repercussions of this new evidence of a second, apparently rigged grand jury are vast and profound. 

They add to an already terrifying, unprecedented body of evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the case. It is already clear from the first grand jury that prosecutors knowingly accepted a confession from Alstory Simon they knew to be false. Transcripts show clearly that a large number of witnesses from the first grand jury always pointed to Porter as the offender, not Simon. Nevertheless, Devine’s office accepted a confession from Simon in September of 1999. Devine’s staff member, Thomas Gainer, walked into court and accepted a confession from Simon when he knew full well there was exculpating evidence still fingering Porter for the murders, not Simon. Gainer did not raise this evidence to the trial judge, as is his legal requirement, nor did the attorney, Jack Rimland, hired by Ciolino and Protess to “represent” Simon. The grand jury transcripts indicate both the prosecutor and the defense attorney lied to the trial judge. 

Now the records suggest that Devine’s office was willing to set up a secret, second grand jury aimed at procuring a wrongful conviction against Alstory Simon. 

This increasing evidence of malfeasance against Dick Devine’s office casts a dark shadow on the current prosecutor, Anita Alvarez.

For many years a collection of investigators, lawyers, retired detectives and journalists have argued that Simon was wrongfully convicted. Their claims were ignored by prosecutors and the courts and ridiculed by Chicago’s corrupt media machine, which had fallen in love with Northwestern University’s Innocence Project. Then, last year, former prosecutor Thomas Epach released his affidavit in which he said he thought Porter was guilty and Simon innocent and had told then State’s Attorney Dick Devine about it. 

No longer able to ignore such compelling evidence, current Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced last year she would review Simon’s case as part of her Conviction Integrity Unit. Alvarez vowed to review the case completely. It dragged on for more than a year before she announced she was releasing Simon from prison. 

In releasing Simon, Alvarez stated she had conducted one of the most comprehensive investigations in her career. She assailed the conduct of Northwestern investigators, saying Protess, Ciolino and attorney Jack Rimland had violated Simon’s constitutions rights in obtaining a confession from Simon and the abysmal representation of Simon in court. 

But Alvarez insisted that there was no malfeasance in the prosecutor’s office when Simon was indicted.  

The discovery of a second grand jury, though, along with the prosecutors knowingly accepting a false confession, now undermines that claim by Alvarez. The manner of Alvarez’s investigation and her conclusions can’t help but suggest that Alvarez may have designed her review into the Simon case as much to cover up corruption in her predecessor’s office as to determine Simon’s guilt or innocence.  

After all, here it is 2014 and only now is it becoming known that there was a second grand jury, and this bombshell information is coming from outside her office.

Here are some questions Alvarez should answer: 

Didn’t Alvarez’s office bother to even look at how Simon was indicted? An indictment is an elemental procedural step of any case. Didn’t the vast evidence of Simon’s innocence that arose in the first grand jury cast a dark cloud on the intent of the second one, which ignored this evidence? 

Didn’t Alvarez or her staff see the clear framing of Simon that was taking place in her predecessor’s office?

Why has she refused to address it? After all, Alvarez has indicted many police officers for corruption. Why are the same standards not applied to the prosecutor’s office? 

It’s important to remember that Alstory Simon is not the only victim in the Anthony Porter debacle. The Chicago Police Department is right along with him. In allowing the wrongful exoneration of Anthony Porter and the wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon, the prosecutors in 1999 betrayed the detectives who initially investigated the case and arrested Porter. When Porter was set free, the detectives endured decades of vilification in the media and court actions against them, including a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars. They were accused of framing Porter, of intimidating witnesses, even of torture. 

The Porter case also gave life to many other fraudulent wrongful conviction claims that ruined the lives of cops and detectives. Chicago Police Officers have lived under this cloud for more than a decade. 

Isn’t it time Alvarez stopped backpedaling on the malfeasance in the Simon case? Isn’t it time a review of the prosecutors conduct and the other David Protess investigations at Northwestern took shape? 

Isn’t it time to put the wrongful conviction movement in Chicago under a legal microscope?

Complaint Demands State Sanctions Against Lawyer in Alstory Simon Case

Two men who played a central role in securing the release of an inmate after 15 years in prison have filed a complaint against that inmate’s attorney, demanding that his license to practice law be suspended.

Chicago Police officer and writer Martin Preib, along with journalist Bill Crawford, have filed a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), the state agency that oversees attorneys. In their complaint, Preib and Crawford claim attorney Jack Rimland, who represented Alstory Simon in a 1999 double homicide case, knowingly violated Simon’s rights. 

“We… assert herein that Jack P. Rimland, an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois since Nov. 29, 1966, played a central role in a sweeping criminal enterprise to ensure that his client, Alstory Simon, would be sentenced to 37 years in Illinois state prison for a 1982 double homicide that Rimland knew his client, Mr. Simon, did not commit,” Preib and Crawford wrote. 

The complaint by the two men comes in the wake of Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez’s recent decision to free Simon from prison after her Conviction Integrity Unit conducted a review of Simon’s conviction. 

In announcing Simon’s release, Alvarez assailed the conduct of Rimland, former Northwestern Professor David Protess and Private Investigator Paul Ciolino. 

Alvarez said her review “raised serious questions about the integrity of the original Protess reinvestigation as well as ethical questions about Simon’s legal representation” by Rimland. 

“The bottom line is the investigation conducted by Protess and private investigator Ciolino as well as Mr. Rimland’s subsequent legal representation of Mr. Simon were so flawed that it’s clear the constitutional rights of Mr. Simon were not scrupulously protected as our law requires.”

“At the end of the day,” Alvarez asserted, “and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction.” 

Alvarez’s review of the Simon conviction came in response to an article by Crawford, titled “Chimera,” in which the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist revealed the conspiracy against Simon by Rimland and members of Northwestern University’s Innocence Project.

Preib, also an award-winning writer, has written a book on this case, entitled “Crooked City.”  In it, Preib interviewed several key investigators in the original Porter murder case that bolstered Crawford’s arguments. 

Preib and Crawford fought a long battle to have Simon’s case reviewed by Alvarez and for Simon to be set free. 

A central theme in their argument was the so called 1999 confession obtained by Protess and his private investigator, Paul Ciolino, a confession that paved the way for Porter’s exoneration and Simon’s conviction.

Crawford and Preib argue that the confession, obtained by Private Investigator Paul Ciolino, was coerced through threats of violence and the death penalty. They also argue that Ciolino solicited it by promising Simon wealth through movie and book deals. 

For several years, Crawford was ridiculed in the local media when he claimed that Simon’s rights had been violated by Rimland, Protess and Ciolino. Porter’s exoneration had attained near mythic proportions among the local media, few of whom would look at the evidence Crawford presented in his article. 

But after a year-long investigation by the state’s attorney, Alvarez’s ruling breathes new life into Crawford and Preib’s claims. 

“I don’t know how the ARDC could allow Rimland to keep practicing law after these statements by Alvarez and after her decision to release Simon,” Preib said. 

Crawford and Preib’s complaint also questions the conduct of a prosecutor in the conviction of Simon. Based on evidence in the public record, Prosecutor Thomas Gainer also knowingly withheld key evidence at Simon’s sentencing hearings, they argue.

“In fact, not only did Gainer and Rimland withhold material facts, they fabricated other facts and mischaracterized material facts for the judge,” they state in their complaint.  

Alvarez has denied her investigation found any wrongdoing on the part of prosecutors from 1999. 

Crawford and Preib’s complaint disputes this claim by Alvarez and requests that ARDC review the evidence that both Rimland and Gainer accepted a confession when they both knew there was exculpating evidence. 

“For these reasons, we are asking for a complete review of Rimland’s professional conduct in this case, a review we are confident will lead to a stripping of his license to practice law in Illinois,” Crawford and Preib state in their complaint.  

 

Gang Leader Calls Porter Exoneration a Fraud, Says It's Not the Only One...

When the inmates at Illinois Department of Corrections watched Anthony Porter walk out of death row in 1999 a free man, they knew a new day had dawned in their lives as well, no matter how heinous their crimes. If Porter could get out, they figured, anyone could. One of the inmates who watched Porter walk free was Ricky Shaw, a top member in the Black P-Stones, who was serving a 25-year sentence for several robberies. 

Shaw holds a unique perspective on the Porter case and the wrongful conviction movement in general. He grew up around Porter and knew what kind of person Porter was. He describes how most inmates didn't believe Porter was innocent of the murders and certainly didn't believe that Alstory Simon was guilty of them, even though Northwestern University activists had obtained a "confession" from Simon.

As a top member of the Black P-Stones, Shaw also held the confidence of several other inmates who claimed they were tortured into confessing and were released, including Aaron Patterson and Darrell Cannon, both men convicted of murder. Shaw describes how these inmates conned the system into getting out.

Though Shaw testified in the trial of Jon Burge and has made himself available to talk to the media, no one, he said, has ever taken him up on it. The lack of interest among Chicago's media is strange: How often does a top gang leader come forward with crucial information about wrongful conviction cases?