Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer

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Filtering by Category: Madison Hobley

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.

After Acquittal of Police Commander, Nine Murders Hang Heavy on Eric Zorn

Just a few days after Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans was acquitted on all charges that he stuck a gun in a suspect’s mouth and threatened his life, the Chicago media began covering their tracks. 

The Chicago Tribune, which had been publishing one article after another claiming DNA evidence in the case indicted Evans, published a grudging editorial suggesting that Evans was, after all, falsely accused by a self-admitted street dope dealer.

The Tribune :

But the public ought to defer to the judge's evaluation of the case. Sometimes cops are falsely accused, and there was more than enough reason to think that this was one of those instances.

Not everyone, however, on the Tribune team was back peddling. Columnist Eric Zorn offered no olive branch, though Zorn was all over the case when the story first broke, saying that even the superintendent was part of what Zorn termed a “scandal,” in light of the allegations against Evans.

Rather than apologize for getting yet another story involving the Chicago Police completely wrong, Zorn posted an article on his Facebook page written by his long-time wrongful conviction soulmate Rob Warden, a former top dog of Northwestern University’s Law School.  

In this shocking article—one that borders on the deranged in its barely disguised and wholly unjustified fury against the judge in the case, Judge Diane Cannon, Warden hurls one of the most vindictive, ludicrous, and nonsensical attacks on a judge ever published. Claiming that “perhaps Cannon simply is not educable,” Warden states: 

Thus, even assuming that the acquittal of Glenn Evans was colorable and rational — a dubious proposition, given the absence of a plausible explanation consistent with innocence for the DNA on his service pistol — Cannon is anything but a credit to the criminal justice system. Her decision in the Evans case exemplifies a double-standard: If acquittals generally were warranted by evidentiary inconsistencies as inconsequential as those that Cannon claimed left her with reasonable doubt about Evans’s guilt — the complaining witness was inconsistent in his description of the weapon involved and told investigators at one point that the officer who assaulted him used his left hand although Evans is right-handed — there would be far, far fewer convictions.

Try reading that paragraph ten times and figuring out what Warden is saying, apart from the fact that he’s furious Cannon acquitted Evans. 

That Zorn, or anyone really, still holds Warden as some legitimate authority on alleged police misconduct cases is, in and of itself, fairly shocking. It would take thousands of pages to list the abuses that took place at Northwestern University in the years Warden worked there to fully demonstrate the lengths to which Warden and his minions will go to construct a fraudulent misconduct case against Chicago Police Officers. 

But suffice it to say that no judge, even those most sympathetic to wrongful conviction zealots like Warden, could convict Evans on what prosecutors brought forth as “evidence” in the Evans trial. The complainant could not identify Evans in two photo lineups. His story changed over andover again as new evidence emerged and the DNA experts who conducted the test admitted it was not conclusive evidence of Evans’ guilt.

“His [Williams’} testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous," Judge Cannon declared.

So what the hell is Warden talking about? A judge ruled based on the evidence, or, in this case, the lack of it. So what? 

It is a mark of the radicalism that permeates the anti-police campaign by Warden, Northwestern, and Zorn that Warden could attack Cannon so viciously in response to a verdict she had no choice to make. Warden’s ludicrous article—and Zorn’s willing to broadcast it to his readers on Facebook, even as his own paper was admitting the case against Evans was no good, is another example of how wrongful conviction advocates and their media allies engage in an intense attack upon anyone, be it cop, prosecutor, witness, journalist, or even a judge, who dares question their efforts to vilify the police.   

One has to step back from the Evans case and ask a question: Why? Why was the Evans case so important to Warden, the Tribune, and Zorn in particular? Why did they make Evans a target of a media frenzy with evidence that quickly withered away in his trial? Why would they build such a case on the claims of street dope dealer, whose testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous.”

The reason becomes clear when one looks more closely at the history of nine murders, murders inextricably linked to Glenn Evans, in which the offenders were fraudulently released from prison, in large part through the collusion of journalists like Eric Zorn in cooperation with wrongful conviction activists like Rob Warden. 

In the context of these nine murders, the criminal case against Evans appears as a desperate attempt by wrongful conviction activists and their media allies to undermine Evans’ credibility as these murders potentially move back into the legal and public spotlight. If they do—and they should—no one stands to lose more than Eric Zorn. 

First, the history.  

It was 2005 and the biggest wrongful conviction case in the state’s history, the exoneration of Anthony Porter for a double murder in 1982, was headed to a civil trial. Porter’s attorneys were trying to fleece the city out of $24 million, claiming detectives framed Porter for the shooting.  The trial itself was a surprise, as no one expected the Porter civil case to make it into a courtroom. Rather, they expected a settlement. There was just too much media hype, spearheaded by Zorn and his Tribune, pushing the claim that Porter was innocent and the cops and prosecutors were crooked. 

But the detectives fought desperately for a trial, hoping to show the jury and the public that, despite the claims of journalists and columnists like Zorn, Porter was the killer and should never have been released. 

The detectives’ strategy was partly successful. In the trial, their attorney, Walter Jones, proved once again that Porter was the killer. The jury ruled against Porter and for the detectives. Porter, a gang enforcer, got no money. 

But the detectives’ hopes that their names would be cleared, and the truth about Porter being the killer would come out, were dashed. After the verdict, Eric Zorn wrote one of the most chilling columns in the history of the city, revealing clearly just what happens to anyone who contradicts his anti-police party line. Zorn published a vicious attack on Jones, who stated moments after the civil trial that he believed Porter was the killer.

Zorn:

Yet Tuesday, shortly after the jury's verdict was announced, Walter Jones, the attorney representing the city, pointed to the table in the courtroom where Porter sat during the trial and told Tribune reporter Charles Sheehan: "The killer has been sitting in that room right there all day."

It was a stunning, graceless and infamous accusation.

Anthony Porter was innocent.

In this column, Zorn is almost frothing at Jones for declaring what Jones had just proven in court: Porter was guilty. Zorn condemns Jones and declares Porter innocent. It is almost impossible to look back at this column by Zorn in the context of what had just taken place in the trial as anything but willful deception.

And so, thanks mostly to Eric Zorn and his willingness to ignore all the evidence that Porter was guilty, and his willingness to attack anyone who pointed it out, the Porter-is innocent myth carried on, all the way until two years ago, when the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez reviewed the case. After a year-long review, Alvarez attacked the conduct of Northwestern investigators who fought for Porter’s exoneration based on the claim that another man, Alstory Simon, committed the murders. Alvarez set Simon free. In releasing Simon, Alvarez singled out two men in the Northwestern investigation for their likely illegal conduct in framing Simon to free Porter, former Professor David Protess and private investigator Paul Ciolino.  

The release of Simon from prison and then the declaration by a judge that he was innocent several months later revealed just how depraved was Zorn’s column after the civil trial, nine years earlier. Zorn could have looked fairly at the facts of the case all the way back in 2005. But he didn’t. In doing so, he acted as a kind of media henchman for Northwestern Professor Protess, Ciolino and the rest of the wrongful conviction zealots who had fraudulently exonerated Anthony Porter and framed Alstory Simon. 

Zorn’s vicious attacks on Walter Jones, and then on those who were fighting to free Alstory Simon, are hardly different from the vicious attacks Zorn’s ally Rob Warden has now leveled against Judge Cannon in the Evans case. 

See the pattern here? Disagree with us and we will launch a vicious attack on you. Zorn is the media strongman, enlisted by wrongful conviction activists not only to push their fraudulent claims, but then to attack their critics. 

But Zorn’s conduct in the Porter case is only a prelude to an altogether more macabre plot in which he also played a key role. This was his writing about the arson by Madison Hobley in January of 1987, an arson in which seven people were burned to death, including Hobley’s own wife and child. Scores were injured, some of them badly burned, others when they leaped out of upper floor windows to escape the flames.  

In March, 1998, Zorn wrote:

The case against Hobley, then an employed medical technician with no criminal convictions on his record—is far from overwhelming. It's based primarily on the testimony of two witnesses who said they saw him buying a can of gas shortly before the fire and the testimony of police from Area 2—a station where the city now admits suspects were routinely tortured—that Hobley confessed his guilt to them. Hobley maintains he, too, was tortured by interrogators.

Again, it is extraordinarily difficult not to see these columns by Zorn, just like his columns about the Porter case, as willful deception. The reason is that Zorn’s columns on the Madison Hobley exoneration omit two crucial words: Glenn Evans.  

One of the most powerful, unequivocal pieces of evidence pointing to Hobley’s guilt was brought by Glenn Evans himself. 

Several weeks before Hobley set the fire that killed the seven people, he was overheard by Evans making arson threats on a telephone call. Evans, a rookie at the time, heard the threats after he and his partner were called to a residence where Hobley’s wife was staying with a friend after she temporarily broke up with Hobley. 

Evans, even though he was just a rookie, was so troubled about the arson threats that he documented them in a case report, then wrote another report to his supervisors about them. He contacted detectives working the Hobley arson after he heard about the fire. When the detectives learned of these documented threats, they were certain they had the right man. 

It would not take a keen investigator to see the magnitude of Hobley’s arson threats just weeks before the actual arson. It is bombshell evidence, showing clearly that setting his wife and child on fire were foremost in Hobley’s mind for weeks. But try to find one sentence in any Zorn column about the Hobley arson acknowledging this key piece of evidence. Just one sentence. Zorn simply ignored it, ignoring that this evidence refuted Zorn’s own ludicrous claims that the evidence against Hobley was not “overwhelming.”

What kind of journalist writes about a fire that kills seven people, including two children, and ignores the indisputable fact that the offender made threats to commit this arson weeks before he actually did so? 

One can see, then, what a shattering disappointment it is for the Tribune, Zorn, Warden and the other wrongful conviction supporters in the city that Evans was acquitted of all criminal charges earlier this month. Had he been convicted—if he had even taken a plea bargain—Zorn and Warden could have discredited any claims made by Evans in the Hobley case. 

“Well, Evans makes these claims about the Hobley case, but, after all, here was a man convicted of sticking his pistol down the mouth of a suspect and threatening his life,” Zorn could have written. 

And it isn’t just Evans’ role as a key witness in the Hobley case that contradicts Zorn’s incredible claim that the evidence against Hobley was not “overwhelming.” Here’s a few things other things Zorn never mentions about the case:

—Witnesses at the crime scene described Hobley wearing completely different clothes than what Hobley claimed, a clear sign he was trying to hide those clothes because they might have traces of the gasoline on them, the gasoline he spilled outside his apartment door and down the stairwell. Hobley admitted in his confession that he had lied about the clothes he was wearing, just as the witnesses said. 

—Hobley was never observed by any witness making any attempt to rescue his son or wife, though he participated in the rescue of others. He was never observed making any attempt to call up to them in their apartment. What husband/father wouldn’t be manic in his attempt to rescue his own wife and child?  

—Hobley’s changing accounts of his escape from the building while his wife and child remained inside contradicted the vast forensic evidence of the fire. Fire investigators testified that if Hobley had gone out into the hallway of the building to investigate, as he claimed, he would have been incinerated. 

—Hobley eventually told detectives he suspected his mistress was the real offender, yet in the hours after the fire he never made any attempt to notify the police, or any authorities, about the woman he says he believed just burned his own wife and son to death. Who believes they know who just killed their own wife and child and doesn’t bother to alert authorities? 

—Hobley failed a lie detector test, then confessed to the detective administering it. He then confessed again to two detectives. If the detectives had framed Hobley, they would have had to bring this other detective in on their conspiracy, quite a tall request in a quintuple murder case covered extensively by the media. Hobley provided details of buying the gas in his confession, details that matched what two witnesses, one of them the owner of the gas station, said. Were these witnesses part of a conspiracy as well? 

The evidence goes on and on that Hobley was, in fact, overwhelmingly guilty, just as the evidence showed Anthony Porter was overwhelmingly guilty of a double murder. The jury in the Hobley trial was convinced, so much so that the jury voted to give Hobley the death penalty. 

The truth is that Zorn’s columns about the Porter and Hobley cases are emerging as some of the most disturbing columns ever written by a Chicago journalist.

But hold on. It gets worse. 

Zorn and his allies who were claiming Hobley was innocent scored one Pyrrhic victory in their crusade to undermine the case based on evidence. In an appeal by Hobley’s attorneys to the Supreme Court, the court was troubled enough by some claims about a gas can taken recovered by detectives to demand an evidentiary hearing. Judge Dennis Porter conducted these hearings. In them, Hobley’s attorneys made various arguments of a police conspiracy based on a gas can, which detectives recovered from the building the day after the fire. True to form, the attorneys alleged that detectives planted the gas can as part of their frame-up of Hobley.  

What followed was two years of intense scrutiny by Judge Porter into every facet of the gas can conspiracy theory by Hobley’s lawyers, a theory Porter soundly rejected after the lengthy process. In the end, Porter openly ridiculed many of the claims made by Hobley and his attorneys.

Zorn’s reaction after he attended the hearing in which Judge Porter rejected the conspiracy theories?

Accordingly, the other half of my expectation Monday morning was that [Judge] Porter would do just as he did--shade the benefit of the doubt on each issue to the prosecution, thereby allowing the Cook County state's attorney's office to keep the lid on this can of worms a little while longer.

In other words, Zorn attacked Porter, claiming Porter was not ruling on the evidence, or again, the lack of it, but simply bailing out prosecutors, just as Warden attacked Judge Cannon in the wake of her not guilty ruling in the Evans case, and just as Zorn attacked attorney Walter Jones for daring to claim that Anthony Porter was guilty of a double murder. 

See the pattern again here? Disagree with us and we’ll attack you like a bunch of rabid wolves. 

What Zorn will not admit is the obvious: It would have been impossible for the courts to extend any more latitude to Hobley’s attorneys to prove their loony theory that Hobley was innocent. 

Tellingly, Zorn also fails to inform his readers that Judge Porter also ruled that a witness brought forth by Hobley’s attorney in the gas can saga—an inmate in prison—was lying. 

Prosecutors in the Hobley case:

Judge Porter’s ruling was issued after two years of discovery, including depositions, and after hearing voluminous testimony. Significantly, Judge Porter ruled that the linchpin of Hobley’s “planted can” theory, fellow arsonist Donnell McKinley, committed perjury in attempting to support this conspiracy hearing. 

It wouldn’t be the last time one of Zorn’s treasured wrongful conviction theories would be rife with witnesses accused of lying. 

Hold on, though, it gets even worse for Zorn. There are even more fundamental ties between the corruption in the Porter exoneration and in Hobley’s. 

One of the bombshell developments in the Hobley exoneration was a claim of attempted bribery by a central witness, Andre Council—one of the witnesses who saw Hobley purchase the gasoline shortly before the fire. Council told prosecutors that one of Hobley’s attorneys, DePaul Law School Professor Andrea Lyon, and a private investigator, Paul Ciolino—the same Ciolino who worked the Porter case—paid a visit to Council’s home. There, Council said, Lyons and Ciolino attempted to bribe Council into changing his testimony against Hobley.  

Zorn’s columns cover this chilling sign of bribery in an arson that left seven people dead, right? 

Nope. Not a word from Zorn. 

Nevertheless, Council’s statement is a crucial bridge from the Hobley case to the Porter, tied together by private investigator Paul Ciolino, who worked on both cases and stands accused of bribing statements from witnesses in both exonerations, including bribing the so-called confession from Alstory Simon in the Porter case. 

Zorn is at the center of these cases as a columnist who wrote extensively about both of them, claiming the convicted killers were innocent. But more and more, these nine murders cast a dark shadow on Zorn and the Chicago media’s relationship to the wrongful conviction movement. 

These nine murders also provide a chilling explanation why this media machine seemed almost hysterical in their drive to see Evans convicted in a case that held so little legitimate evidence of his guilt from the outset.  

No doubt Zorn and his entourage assumed—hoped, really—that Evans would have taken a deal and pled guilty to a lesser charge. But they underestimated Evans’ courage, his willingness to fight the case at the risk of everything. The fact that Evans witnessed Hobley’s crime and then witnessed this mass killer walk free from death row no doubt was a pivotal reason Evans fought, and prevailed. 

And that may not be the end of it for Zorn.  Evidence mounts that more cases will emerge undermining the legitimacy of his columns for the last two decades. 

Public relations executive and former Tribune reporter, Dan Curry, for example, has published a blog, What Really Happened in Paris, focusing on corruption in another downstate double murder case that led to the exoneration of two convicted killers. 

That case, spearheaded again by Northwestern University’s David Protess, was covered extensively by Eric Zorn. 

In that case, Curry questions why Zorn at one time covered every aspect of the story when he was alleging a wrongful conviction, but is now silent when new evidence emerges that the original offenders may be guilty after all. 

Curry: 

In Zorn’s case, it simply is a bridge too far to declare himself possibly wrong about the numerous columns he wrote about the case. He has already declared himself possibly wrong about the Anthony Porter case, also involving Northwestern University. One case could be an anomaly — two might be a pattern. 

One wonders: Are the nine murders hanging over Zorn’s head now turning into eleven? What will be the final tally?  

There is another reason why Zorn and his wrongful conviction allies would want Evans discredited. Zorn and his entourage of media colleagues built much of their movement in painting former Commander Jon Burge and his men as racist thugs, as cops who went around torturing suspects. Those allegations never went anywhere in a courtroom until the Hobley case came along. In the end, Burge’s sole conviction in connection with the torture allegations arose from the Hobley case. 

What will it mean for Zorn, Warden, Northwestern and the rest of the wrongful conviction gang when the Hobley exoneration case is revealed as one of the greatest frauds ever perpetuated in the state’s history? 

No wonder they all wanted Evans’ head so badly, his head on a wrongful conviction platter, paraded all around 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. 

John Conroy, Chicago Reader: Criminal Damage?

Part I 

It was the worst crime scene many detectives had ever seen. A building had caught fire on the south side of Chicago in January of 1987. Seven people trapped inside died, including a mother and her child on the third floor. More than a dozen other people were seriously injured, some with burns and some with broken bones from jumping out of windows to escape the flames. 

There were several ambulances, fire engines everywhere. Neighbors came out with blankets and shoes. Police arrived. Eventually, many of them relocated to the hospitals and the morgue to begin collecting evidence and statements. 

In short time, investigators determined the fire was an arson. An unknown offender had poured accelerant outside apartment 301, the dwelling where the woman and her child died. The seven people who died really didn’t have a chance. They died cornered by the flames fast approaching them. 

Eventually, police visited the man who was the father/husband of the woman and child who had died together in apartment 301. His name was Madison Hobley. Somehow Hobley had escaped the flames, though his wife and child didn’t. Originally contacted as a potential witness, Hobley’s conflicting statements drew the suspicion of the detectives, who read Hobley his rights and asked him to take a lie detector test, which he failed. Hobley then admitted to the crimes twice, saying he set the fire because his wife would not let Hobley’s mistress live with them in the same household.

Throughout their interactions with Hobley, the detectives were impressed with how little emotion he demonstrated after just losing his own wife and son. 

Hobley would be sent to death row, joining a group of men later known as the Death Row 10. These men would claim they were tortured into confessing to their various crimes. Some would get out of prison, including Hobley. 

Eventually, Hobley would settle for $6 million with the City of Chicago. 

Of all the wrongful conviction cases, Hobley’s was in many ways the most incredible. One day he is convicted of seven murders and is sent to death row, the next he is a multi-millionaire. 

Part II

The main journalist who took up Hobley’s claims of innocence—the journalist whose influence helped spring Hobley and make him rich—was a reporter from the Chicago Reader, John Conroy. In many ways, Conroy’s articles about Hobley marked the climax of his career. 

Before taking up the Hobley case, Conroy had written articles throughout the 1980s and 1990s at the Reader claiming a group of detectives, led by Jon Burge, were a collection of racist thugs. These detectives had, according to Conroy, beaten confessions out of guilty and innocent men alike, even electrocuted them. According to Conroy’s articles, Burge and his men really didn’t care if the man they identified as the perpetrator was guilty or innocent. 

Conroy enjoyed a long relationship with wrongful conviction law firms, his articles filled with their quotes and claims about cases. Despite these regular articles at the Reader, Conroy’s articles never resulted in any conviction of Burge or his men. In fact, none of Burge’s men had ever been convicted in a criminal case or lost a civil trial in connection with abuse allegations against them. 

That is not to say Conroy’s articles didn’t have a huge impact. His relentless drum beats against Burge and his men eventually pushed the claims against Burge to a hearing in front of the Police Board, a collection of civilians who have the power to hire and fire police officers. At the end of these police board hearings where Conroy’s theories of police torture were given full expression, Burge was fired and two of his men were suspended for 15 months. The two underlings eventually returned to work, but Burge never did. 

Burge’s firing provided a legitimacy to the claims of torture against him. It was huge achievement for Conroy and the Chicago Reader. 

There was another crucial body of evidence generated against Burge and his men. After Burge’s firing, a special prosecutor was convened. This special prosecutor ultimately published a report on their findings. The report concluded systemic abuse had taken place among Burge’s men, but stated the statute of limitations had run out. Burge and his men could not be indicted, it said. 

With Burge’s firing, the special prosecutor’s report, and the claims of dozens of gangbangers and killers, Conroy became an icon in the Chicago journalism community, in particular at the Chicago Reader. He wrote books, gave speeches about police torture. 

 

Part III 

But what truly gave wings to Conroy’s claims against the police was an event that took place in 1999. That was when Northwestern University’s Innocence Project convinced prosecutors to release convicted killer and death row resident Anthony Porter for a 1982 double murder and indict another man, Alstory Simon, for the same killings. Northwestern Professor David Protess and his Private Investigator, Paul Ciolino, had obtained a bizarre confession from Simon to the two murders originally attributed to Porter. This confession compelled prosecutors to release Porter and convict Simon.

It was a story that garnered international attention, the image of death row inmate Anthony Porter walking free from prison into the embracing arms of David Protess played over and over all over the world. 

It also gave greater legitimacy to Conroy’s theory that the Chicago Police were racist thugs, for, though Burge and his men were not involved in the case, Porter’s exoneration was built on the claim that other detectives framed Porter and ignored evidence that Simon was guilty, just as Conroy had argued that Burge and his men in Area 2 framed innocent men. 

When Northwestern investigators got Alstory Simon to confess in open court that he committed the murders, and not Anthony Porter, well, Conroy’s myths about the Chicago Police seemed unassailable.  

Here, at last, was confirmation in a courtroom of the what Conroy had been arguing all along: that Chicago Police framed innocent men. They were racist. They were willing to torture men. Then they would lie about it. And all the detectives involved in a dirty case, often a dozen of them on one case, would all stick to their lies, no matter what. 

The Porter case transformed the Illinois justice system. Former Governor George Ryan stated he was so overwhelmed by the exoneration of Porter that he ordered a moratorium on the death penalty. Then, in the wake of the Porter exoneration, Ryan pardoned several more men. 

After the Porter exoneration, the claims of police abuse exploded. Every inmate who watched Anthony Porter walk off death row realized if Porter could get out, so could they. How many other cases were there where police had coerced confessions, gotten the wrong men? Conroy and the other journalists in town were happy to jump in with the answers. It was limitless. Claim after claim of police abuse came forward, claims that cops were beating and framing people as investigations against Burge and his men were taking shape. 

In the wake of Porter exoneration, attorneys for other inmates claimed their clients were innocent. 

One, incredibly, was Madison Hobley. Hobley’s attorneys, Andrea Lyon, a law professor at DePaul University, and Kurt Feuer from Loevy and Loevy, claimed detectives beat a confession from Hobley. They also maintained detectives planted false evidence at the crime scene and that prosecutors withheld evidence. 

Conroy began “investigating” these claims by Hobley and his attorneys. 

Part IV

It was around the time Conroy began investigating the Hobley case that Alstory Simon, the man who “confessed” to the Porter murders, now came forward with a strange tale of his own. He said he was coerced into confessing to the 1982 murders by Northwestern investigator Paul Ciolino and Professor David Protess. He said the men promised him money from movie and book deals for confessing. If he refused, Simon claimed the men said he could get the death penalty for the murders. Simon said he caved in and went along with the plan. 

Not one wrongful conviction journalist in the city gave Simon the time of day about his allegations. In fact, not one journalist ever even contacted him.

Fast forward to more than a decade later. Simon finally found some people willing to listen to his story. It was two former ATF agents, now private detectives, John Mizzola and Jim Delorto. Later, retired journalist Bill Crawford would also join them, and then the Conviction Project. These men began to break down the claims of Northwestern about the Porter case. It was a chilling body of evidence they discovered. Clearly, they all concluded, Porter was guilty of the murders and Simon was innocent. 

And it was the nature of the evidence that proved Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence that was most troubling. The evidence was obvious, right there in the public record of the case and in the facts of the police investigation. 

This evidence revealed that the media had never really investigated the Porter murders at all. Instead, the journalists had just echoed the claims of wrongful conviction lawyers without checking the facts. In fact, with just the simplest review, the claims by Northwestern fell completely apart. 

One example in particular illuminates this fact. 

The detectives in the original Porter murders obtained six witnesses who fingered Porter as the killer. Two of the witnesses were obtained at the crime scene right after the murders. One of them described in detail how Porter raised a pistol and shot the two victims, down to the fact that Porter fired from his left hand. 

A second group of witnesses was discovered the following day by the detectives and a prosecutor during a walk through at the crime scene. The statements of this second group matched the first exactly, including the claim that Porter fired from his left hand. The narratives were so identical that it would be impossible for both groups to have accidentally articulated the same story in such detail. 

It was instant confirmation to the detectives and the prosecutor that both groups of witnesses were telling the truth and that Porter was the killer. The two groups of witnesses also undermined any ludicrous claims of coercion by the detectives, for the corroborating statements of the witnesses rejected the claim that Porter was innocent or that any witness had been coerced by the detectives.  

These two sets of independent witnesses, obtained hours apart, completely obliterated the Northwestern theories about the case. And yet the evidence was right there in the police reports and court transcripts. It was obvious. Nevertheless, the significance of these matching witness statements was never revealed by Northwestern, nor was it mentioned by any of the journalists they had in their back pocket.

To this day, Northwestern investigators have never explained the significance of these independent witnesses in the Porter case. 

Clearly, either the journalists never bothered to review the case in the wake of Northwestern allegations, or they were covering up the evidence. Most likely, some journalists never bothered to look, and some covered it up.   

All of this brings us back to John Conroy and his Madison Hobley investigation at the Chicago Reader, which was unfolding just after the media completely failed to investigate the Porter exoneration. 

One has to ask: Was Conroy’s investigation into the Hobley case crooked in the same manner as the Porter case? Was Conroy willing to overlook key evidence in his coverage of the Hobley case? In other words, is the journalism malfeasance in the Porter exoneration part of a larger pattern of evidence? 

Part V 

Conroy investigated the Hobley case. He wrote the definitive “Hobley is Innocent” article that appeared in the Chicago Reader on May 25, 2000, entitled “This is a Magic Can.” At the time the Chicago Reader published this article, Alstory Simon was serving the first year of his 37-year sentence. 

The centerpiece of the Conroy article are the claims of Hobley’s attorneys that a gas can found by detectives at the crime scene the day after the murders vindicated Hobley. This gas can was evidence of a police frame-up, according to the attorneys. The controversy over the gas can eventually led to a long evidentiary review. A judge eventually ruled that there was nothing about the gas can sufficient to overturn Hobley’s conviction. 

The long and short of the gas can was this. Detectives returned to the crime scene the day afterward and canvassed the building. They found the can on the second floor of the building in an apartment. They took it, inventoried it and sent it out for fingerprints to see if it was the can Hobley used. The fingerprints came back negative. It may or may not have been the gas can used by Hobley. But it is hardly a crucial factor in the case. 

Conroy’s article goes into fine details about the Hobley case, about the gas can, about his arrest, the police investigation, and Hobley’s trial. But just as Northwestern and the media ignored the central, crucial facts of detectives obtaining independent witness statements in the Porter case, Conroy ignores a central event that undermines Hobley’s claims of innocence. 

Conroy’s intentional leaving out of this central event is one of the most chilling examples of corruption in the history of Chicago’s media machine. 

Here is what happened. 

In the course of their investigation, detectives learned that Hobley’s motive to set the fire arose from a love triangle. He had begun an affair with another woman. His wife found out about it and left him. Hobley hatched a bizarre plan in which he tried to convince both his wife and his mistress that they could all live together under one roof. Needless to say, neither his wife nor his mistress took to the idea. 

Hobley’s wife moved out, to an apartment of a friend, taking their son with her. Hobley began making threatening phone calls to the apartment, demanding that his wife and child return home. He came to the apartment, banging on the door. Then he threw a brick through the window of the apartment. 

The police were called. Two officers completed a case report for criminal damage to property. While the police were on scene, the phone rang. The woman who rented the apartment told police it was probably Hobley making threats. She asked the police to listen to the call on another phone. The police did so.

The two officers heard Hobley tell the woman that if his wife and child didn’t return home, he would set the apartment on fire. 

There it was. Hobley threatened an arson against his wife and child weeks before an actual arson murdered his wife and child, an arson he confessed to twice. When the detectives investigating the Hobley arson became aware of this case report and his threats, they were certain that they had the right man. What would be the chances that these threats by Hobley weeks earlier were just a coincidence, particularly given all the other evidence against him? 

Of course, any legitimate work of journalism on the case would include a review of this crucial event, right? It would take a lot of explaining in an article to cast doubt on the significance of Hobley threatening to set his wife and son on fire weeks before an actual arson took their lives. 

Well, Conroy didn’t attempt to explain it. In his definitive article for the Reader, Conroy never even mentioned this central fact of arson threats by Hobley. Conroy just ignored it, spinning a long narrative of how crooked the detectives were because of some gas can. 

It’s hard to overestimate the magnitude of this clearly intentional omission, as crooked and depraved as Northwestern investigators David Protess and Paul Ciolino, along with their media sycophants, never mentioning the significance of two independent groups of witnesses providing identical statements in the Porter case. 

It’s a clear sign that when crucial evidence arises vindicating the detectives’ investigations, the activist journalists in Chicago just ignore it. 

It is also a sign of just how deep, corrupt and sickening is the relationship between reporters in Chicago and wrongful conviction law firms. 

How could any journalist write an article claiming Hobley was innocent and ignore the central, overwhelming event of Hobley revealing that arson was, in fact, in the forefront of his mind in the weeks preceding the inferno that murdered so many people?

One reason Conroy was forced to ignore this evidence was that he couldn’t undermine it. He couldn’t throw much suspicion on it. The officers, after all, who responded to the apartment where Hobley had thrown the brick through the window had no connection to the detectives investigating the arson. Besides, it was the friend of Hobley’s wife who called the police and then asked them to listen to the phone call on another line, so it would be hard to claim that these cops were lying about the threats or that they manufactured them. 

The officers were so impressed by Hobley’s threats that they listed the arson threat in the narrative of the case report for the criminal damage. The officer who heard Hobley make the threats perceived the significance of them. He wrote another separate report to his supervisors, letting them know he thought Hobley was a serious danger. And, or course, this officer was right.  

Part VI

Remember how the Anthony Porter case paved the way for Hobley’s exoneration? Remember how Governor Ryan pardoned Porter and then used the Porter case to justify his moratorium on the death penalty and his claims that error and abuse plagued so many wrongful convictions? 

Here is Ryan’s own statement: 

"How do you prevent another Anthony Porter -- another innocent man or woman from paying the ultimate penalty for a crime he or she did not commit? Today, I cannot answer that question."

Well, a funny thing happened in the last few years. The pressure applied by Delorto, Mizzola, Bill Crawford and the Conviction Project that the Porter case was a fraud eventually compelled Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to review the case. Last year Alvarez released Alstory Simon from prison, the man Northwestern said was the real killer. In releasing Simon, Alvarez assailed Northwestern investigators, former professor David Protess, his sidekick private investigator Paul Ciolino and an attorney Protess and Ciolino obtained for Simon, Jack Rimland. 

Alvarez admitted that the conduct of these three men may very well have been criminal. 

From the Tribune:

“The bottom line is the investigation conducted by Protess and private investigator Ciolino as well as the 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," said Alvarez, who indicated she would have considered obstruction of justice or witness intimidation charges if the statute of limitations hadn't run out.

Turns out Alstory Simon’s claims of being railroaded by Northwestern and the Chicago media were true. 

In the wake of this bombshell announcement by Alvarez, one would think that the journalists who wrote so many stories about the wrongful conviction movement might take a second look at the Porter case. They might see if other cases were similarly corrupted. 

Not Conroy. Even though the Conviction Project tried repeatedly to get him and his colleagues to address the fact that Alstory Simon was a wrongful conviction, Conroy would not touch the case. He has not written one word about the Porter fiasco, nor drawn any lines from it to the Hobley case, lines that clearly exist, for likely Hobley would never had been pardoned by Governor Ryan had not Porter been pardoned first, had not the Porter exoneration set a precedent.  

It gets worse. Why does it always get worse in Chicago? 

Conroy now won’t even talk about his coverage of the Hobley case. 

In the wake of the Porter case falling apart and the now growing signs that the Hobley case is also a fraudulent exoneration, Conroy has refused to answer any questions from the Conviction Project, even though he currently teaches investigative reporting at DePaul University. 

He will not take any calls, nor respond to any email queries. 

One wonders: Why? If Conroy truly believes Hobley is innocent and Conroy can argue it with evidence, wouldn’t he relish the opportunity to refute any criticism? This is, after all, one of the crowning achievements of his career.

Conroy’s not the only one. Hobley’s main attorney, former DePaul law professor, Andrea Lyon, also refuses to speak to the Conviction Project. 

The Conviction Project, however, was able to interview the other attorney who worked on the Hobley case, Kurt Feuer. 

But Feuer doesn’t clear up any confusion about the Hobley exoneration. Feuer’s comments only add to the absurdity of Hobley’s innocence claims. 

When asked, for example, about the arson threats Hobley made weeks before the actual arson, Feuer dismissed them, alleging—what else—the detectives were lying. 

“The detectives could have made that up,” Feuer said. 

What? The detectives manufactured a false police report about Hobley threatening an arson? 

Part VII

Wrongful conviction theories often move into the absurd, but every now and then their theories even defy the basic laws of physics, the elemental rules of space and time.  

It happened in the Porter case. Porter’s attorneys expected the city to settle his case after he was exonerated, but an attorney for the detectives decided to go to trial. All of a sudden, as this trial approached, Porter and his attorneys began to see their million dollar payday slipping away. Porter began panicking. Porter suddenly alleged sixteen years after the murders, right before the civil trial was to begin, that detectives attempted to torture him into confessing. There was one problem, though. The detectives never met Porter in the course of their investigation. They only had a warrant put out for his arrest. 

So how did detectives torture a man they did not encounter? This seminal, obvious question was never raised by Chicago journalists, who nevertheless claimed they had thoroughly “investigated” the Porter saga. This clearly false allegation of torture never even attracted their attention.  

Feuer’s claim that the detectives made up the case report about Hobley’s arson threats is just as absurd. They are a telling insight into the depraved bias that guides the wrongful conviction imagination, their willingness to make any claim to get offenders out of prison, even offenders who kill seven people.

Think about it for just a moment. 

What evil genius of a detective, mired in a vast crime scene of seven dead and 17 wounded, all scattered about at area hospitals or at the morgue, would come up with a plan to create a false case report from several weeks earlier alleging the arson threats and naming Hobley as the author of those threats? 

That would mean that in the earliest moments of the arson investigation, the detectives had decided to pin the crime on Hobley, before they even knew who he was. It would mean they somehow got Hobley’s name at the crime scene, somehow contacted one another (this was the era before cell phones), all decided to frame this guy Hobley and agree on a narrative about his involvement when they hadn’t even processed the crime scene evidence yet. How could they be sure the evidence wouldn’t point to another offender and their conspiracy would be exposed? 

How did the detectives at the arson crime scene know that Hobley and his wife had split weeks earlier? How did they know she was, in fact, staying at a friend’s apartment? How did they know the whole history of his affair and betrayal of his wife so that they could put it all in their manufactured case report? 

But it gets even weirder. A police case report instantly generates a report number from the 911 center. The detectives can’t make one up. The report is then distributed to various departments, depending on the nature of the alleged crime. One copy stays in the district, one goes to headquarters. 

If the detectives made up this case report to justify their arrest of Hobley, how did the detectives know the right number to put on it, as the numbers are chronologically derived, and how did they get copies of it distributed throughout the department? All this within one day of the actual arson? 

If detectives had manufactured a false case report, it would have been simple to discover and Hobley would have had a legitimate appeal, which he would have likely won. 

The manufactured, false case report is totally impossible, a completely ludicrous claim by Feuer. How did the detectives get two patrolmen to go along with the forged case report? How did they know they were working the night Hobley made the threats? How did they know they weren’t on another call? How did they know they would go along with the detectives’ ruse? How did they know Hobley’s wife and the woman who rented the apartment would go along with it? How did the detectives even know this apartment existed? 

It’s bad enough that Feuer will still maintain some absurd claim about a key piece of evidence, but it is even more incredible that John Conroy could publish an article about the arson and ignore this central event of Hobley’s arson threats weeks before the actual arson. 

It gives one pause.

Conroy’s willingness to ignore this central fact of the Hobley narrative brings to life so many other absurdities in the Hobley innocence claims. Let’s consider one. 

Hobley admitted that after the arson he went back to his mother’s apartment and there took a bath. Prosecutors alleged that the purpose of this bath was to wash away any evidence of the arson, including gasoline on Hobley’s body. 

Hobley denied this. 

But who can imagine that a man who just lost his wife and child in a horrific fire would go and take a bath? 

“Man oh man, that’s terrible news about my wife and child dying in that fire. It must have been terrible to slowly burn to death. If any one wants me, Mom, I’ll be in the tub.”

An innocent person would be so overcome with grief that a bath would be the last thing they would ever think of. 

A guilty person, on the other hand…

No, Feuer’s dismissal of the Hobley threats being part of a detective conspiracy are ridiculous. 

The truth is that the police did file a case report wherein Hobley threatened an arson. The truth is that, weeks later, Hobley did commit that arson that killed so many people. The truth is that Hobley did confess to the detectives. The truth is that the criminal justice system worked when it convicted Hobley and sentenced him to death row, just as it had worked in convicting Porter. Hobley and Porter both did it. 

Hobley murdered seven people, including his own child. That’s why every legal proceeding that looked at Hobley’s case determined he was guilty. 

Part VIII

Remember the Porter case? Remember how that case led to the exoneration of so many other offenders, including Hobley? 

Remember how Alstory Simon was let out of prison at the behest of Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who said the actions of Northwestern Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino were likely criminal? 

Well, Alstory Simon’s attorneys have filed a $40 million lawsuit against Northwestern, Protess, and Ciolino. In it, they allege a vast pattern of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement, corruption going back decades over several cases, including the Hobley case. 

For some reason, none of these instances of alleged corruption in the lawsuit ever found its way into any of Conroy’s articles. 

One has to wonder why. 

Why isn’t this new evidence forcing a reconsideration of the wrongful conviction narrative?  

The reasons are ominous. 

In the long history of Conroy’s reporting on the wrongful conviction movement, Jon Burge and his men were never convicted. It was a true thorn in the side of the wrongful conviction journalists, who insisted that Burge should be wasting away in prison. 

Hobley eventually provided the basis of that conviction. In two two interrogatories by Burge in a civil lawsuit by Hobley’s lawyers, Burge denied ever abusing anyone. Those statements were ultimately used to obtain an indictment against Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice. Burge was convicted and sent to prison. 

It was the conviction Conroy and his wrongful conviction allies always sought. It was the conviction that gave legitimacy to all of Conroy’s career.

But now, with the growing evidence of corruption in the media and the wrongful conviction movement, one has to reconsider the legitimacy of all the so-called evidence against Chicago Police over the last few decades. 

Consider, for example, the special prosecutor’s report that concluded there was systemic abuse by Burge and his men. 

One wonders if the special prosecutors had known about the corruption in the wrongful conviction movement, the bribed testimony, the obstruction of justice, the violation of constitutional rights, the lying witnesses, the journalistic conspiracy of reporters like Conroy, who refused to address crucial evidence, one wonders in the wake of all this if the special prosecutors would now make the same findings about the Chicago Police that they did so many years ago.  

Or would they have called for an indictment not against Burge, but against the wrongful conviction activists? 

We’ll never know. 

Journalists and activists don’t want to explore the corruption in the movement because the evidence in the Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley exonerations threatens not simply to undermine a few cases, but rather the entire mythology of the movement.  

And at the bottom of it is one question they don’t want to face. 

Did Chicago journalists, in order to finally convict Jon Burge, do so by liberating a man who incinerated his own family?  

Is this journalism in the Crooked City? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Tribune Return its Pulitzer Prize?

Investigative reporters at the once mighty Tribune newspaper are reportedly digging into the Anthony Porter case, a sign the paper may finally be facing the truth that it got the biggest wrongful conviction case in the state's history completely wrong.  

Preliminary indications are that investigative reporters may actually be taking a look at more than the just the Porter case. The reporters may review the entire career of disgraced former Professor David Protess at Northwestern's Innocence Project.

If only it were true.   

Protess spearheaded several crucial wrongful conviction cases, including Anthony Porter, a career thug who in 1982 gunned down a couple in a park. Not only did Protess and his students free Porter, who was clearly guilty of the murders, they incarcerated an innocent man, Alstory Simon, along the way. 

In the last few years, Protess was fired from Northwestern after the school admitted he lied about his investigations. Now prosecutors are reviewing the Porter case after a litany of allegations arose claiming Protess and his Private Investigator Paul Ciolino manipulated evidence. 

Critics of the Porter exoneration point out that it could not have taken place without the support of the media. But now the Tribune narrative is crumbling under the weight of new evidence pointing to Porter's guilt and Alstory Simon's innocence.

What will the paper to do? Will investigative reporters truly dig deep into the Protess cases? Could a major metropolitan newspaper finally acknowledge it had one of the biggest wrongful convictions completely wrong? After all, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in part over his coverage of Porter.

Will the paper apologize to the detectives in the case, who endured six years of condemnation in the media because Tribune journalists never bothered to look at the facts? And then what will happen if the paper does investigate the Porter case? They will inevitably have to ask what other wrongful conviction claims are also false.

Certainly they will then have to take up the Madison Hobley case, an arson in which seven people were killed. Hobley was sent to death row, but was set free, just like Porter. 

How deep will it go? How many wrongful conviction claims will fall apart?

Somewhere along the way, the Tribune must account for the 2005 civil trial in which Porter's attorneys tried to sue the city, claiming the detectives framed Porter. The detectives fought for the city to take the case to trial.  

The attorney for the detectives, Walter Jones, at first believed Porter was innocent. Then he talked to the detectives and re-investigated the case, concluding that Porter was guilty. Jones walked into the civil trial and argued just that: that the only man who could be guilty of the murders was Porter. Jones and the detectives won and Porter got nothing.

After the trial, reporters asked how it could be Porter didn't get any money. Jones pointed to Porter and said that Porter was the killer.

Furious that Jones could contradict the narrative of Porter's innocence, Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote a scathing attack on Jones, even suggesting a lawsuit against Jones for Jones claiming that Porter was guilty.

I asked Jones about Zorn's column. 

Media Ignores Bombshell Evidence in Hobley Case

Eric Zorn missed it. Steven Mills missed it. Mike Miner missed it. 

But it's all right there, another bombshell statement in a major wrongful conviction case pointing once again to the fact that a so called wrongfully convicted man was, in fact, guilty of a heinous multiple murder.

As the evidence piles up that Northwestern University's Innocence Project knowingly exonerated a guilty man in a 1982 double homicide, Anthony Porter, and incarcerated the wrong man for the murders, Alstory Simon, more evidence piles up that Madison Hobley, convicted in a 1987 arson that killed seven people, was guilty.

This is a statement from an inmate who knew Hobley. The inmate, Darryl Simms said Hobley admitted to the murders repeatedly. Simms reportedly made these statements to federal investigators. 

The arson was a horrendous crime that killed Hobley's wife and son, along with five others. Some 17 others were also injured, many as they tried to escape the burning building. There were accounts of parents tossing their infant children from upper windows.

Hobley was freed after "journalists" like Mills and John Conroy initiated the wrongful conviction playbook against police and prosecutors.  

But the truth is that legal inquiry after legal inquiry pointed to Hobley as the offender. Hobley was not only released from prison, he was given $6 million.

Even more troubling is the fact that another central witness in the case claims Hobley's lawyer, Andrea Lyon, and a private investigator, Paul Ciolino, both came to his house and offered him a bribe to change his testimony. Ciolino has faced the same accusations from several other witnesses in other cases, including the Porter case.

Now that the Porter case is falling apart and evidence mounts of malfeasance in other wrongful conviction cases, these activists journalists refuse to admit how badly they blew it. 

Two people murdered in the Porter case, seven in the Hobley case. 

That's nine murders. 

 

   

 

Another Wrongful Conviction Scandal in Hobley Case?

Madison Hobley was convicted of setting a fire in his building in January of 1987, an arson that killed his wife, child and five other people, seriously injurying some 17 others, many of whom jumped from windows to escape the flames. It was one of the worst fires of the decade.

After a trial based on overwhelming evidence against Hobley, including a confession, Hobley was convicted and sentenced to death row.

While on death row, Hobley met other inmates who were claiming torture as a means of getting out of prison. Hobley made the same allegations. Like other inmates, Hobley was pardoned by Governor Ryan, who also placed a moratorium on the death penalty. 

In addition to gaining his freedom, Hobley also won a settlement for $6 million from the city. It was, next to the exoneration of Anthony Porter for a double homicide, one of the fantastic turn of events in history of Illinois criminal justice: a man sentenced to death for killing seven people, exonerated, then given $6 million. 

The problem is that the case, just like the Anthony Porter case, is full of holes.  

One of the most incredible turns in the case came from a man who worked at a gas station and witnessed Hobley buy a can of gas shortly before the arson. This witness, Andre Council, claimed he received a visit from Hobley's attorney, Andrea Lyons, a DePaul University Law School faculty member, and a private investigator named Paul Ciolino. In this meeting, Council claims Lyons and Ciolino offered him a bribe to change his statement. 

But one has to ask a central question even before getting into Council's claims. Why would a lawyer and a private investigator visit a central witness at his home? Why wouldn't they just wait for a deposition to ask questions? The visit itself is an ominous event in the case. Who goes and secretly meets with witnesses in cases outside the view of opposing lawyers and stenographers? 

Paul Ciolino, the private investigator who visited Council, is a central figure in the Anthony Porter case, a double murder case in which Porter was freed from prison based upon the "evidence" gathered by Ciolino and Professor David Protess at the Innocence Project of Northwestern University. That case is now under fire and being reviewed by prosecutors. In the Porter case, Ciolino has also been accused of offering bribes and coercing testimony.

Then, in the Hobley case, the exact same accusations arise against Cioilino from a completely independent witness. Is a pattern of behavior, a modus operendi, emerging in several key wrongful conviction cases? 

Here is the deposition of Council about the alleged bribe by Lyon and Ciolino.  

Q. Okay. And did they -- how did you first come in contact with them (Andrea Lyon and Paul Ciolino)? Did they call you first? Did they come to the house? What do you remember?

A. I remember them coming to the house...

Q. And this was at your house.

A. Right.

Q. Okay. So did you invite them in?

A. Yeah, they came in.

Q. And tell me as best you can remember what was said to you by who.

Q. Asked you if you had kids?

A. Well, both of them was talking to me. I don't remember. I just remember little details.
You know, they was telling me that, you know, he didn't do it.

Q. He, meaning who?

A. Madison Hobley. You know, that's the way -- they say Madison Hobley, he wasn't the one who set the fire. The lady was telling me, you know, that I need to concentrate on looking at him as not being guilty, you know, nongui- -- you know, he wasn't guilty. So they was telling me, you know, that this is going to come up again, you know, and that I was going to have to go -- you know, that I think they was appealing this case or something like that?

Q. Right.

A. And they were both telling me that, you know, my my -- it was a mantle piece, something like this. My daughter's picture was sitting up there right in front. They was asking me did I have kids, you know

Q. Who was asking that?

A. Both of them was talking to me about it. And they was talking to me about it.

Q. Asked you if you had kids?

A. Right. Well, my daughter and son look just like me. And so they was asking me, you know, what grade, what grade was they in, how old was my kids, and, you know, was they going to college.I said, Yeah, they -- my daughter is older. And well, she's still older, and they was talking about what she going to college for. I told them I didn't know what was she going to do. And they asked me, you know, how would I like to not work anymore. You know, they said that they have ways they could do it. You know, she said she deal with colleges.

Q. Uh-huh.

A. And he was -- he was telling me the same thing, basically, that they could send my
daughter to college and I wouldn't have to pay for it. And I was like

Q. What do you mean, if you changed your testimony?

A. Exactly. They told --they told me, first of all, he's not guilty. I'm like, first of all, you know, I'm saying this to myself, they didn't know Madison Hobley before this case comes up. You know, I could see if they live right next to him or they knew him, but they didn't know anything about him at all. I'm saying this to myself, not to them.

Q. All right. But in terms of that conversation, you're saying they were telling you that if you changed your testimony -- what did they want you to say? Did they tell you what they wanted you to say?

A. They wanted me to say that I didn't -- that I wasn't -- that I wasn't sure, you know, that, you know, you know, she was -- she was writing down, which I never said this before, but I'm going to say it now. She was writing on a sheet of paper the things that I should say.

Q. Andrea Lyon was?

A. Right.

Q. Did you look at it?

A. No, I didn't look at it. She took it with. I told, you know -- in fact, both of them was mad with me, you know, because, you know, I said, No, I didn't see him set the fire, but this was the guy at the gas station was the first place, at the fire, and on TV, same guy.