Friday, January 27, 2006

This case helped empty Illinois' death row: Was it built on fraud?

In 1998, Anthony Porter was just 50 hours away from being executed for the murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard. Largely because of the efforts of Northwestern University Professor David Protess and some of his journalism students, a year later Porter was a free man.

Four years later, on the campus of Northwestern University, citing the Porter case as an inspiration, outgoing Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted all 156 death penalty sentences to life-in-prison. And Ryan gave Anthony Porter a full pardon.

In early 1999, Protess and his students obtained the confession of Alstory Simon. The real killer of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard had been found.

End of story? Not exactly.

Late last year, Anthony Porter's civil suit against the city of Chicago for wrongful arrest came to trial--Porter loss the case.

And Walter Jones, an attorney representing the city, said in court:

We successfully showed that it was truly Anthony Porter that committed this murder.

And now Alstory Simon, the man who confessed to the murders the Porter was originally convicted of, denies involvement in the Green and Hillard killings.

ABC 7 Chicago reports:

In 1999, Simon sat in his home in Milwaukee and confessed on videotape to the murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard on Chicago's South Side. The confession -- coupled with statements from Inez and Walter -- meant freedom for Anthony Porter, who had been convicted and nearly executed for the crimes. Inez swore last month, she made her 1999 statement against Alstory because she was angry at her ex-husband and had been offered money, movie and book deals by Northwestern journalism professor David Protess. She says Protess also promised to help free Walter and her son, Sonny Jackson -- both of whom are in prison for murder.

In an exclusive interview, Simon told ABC7's Paul Meinke that he confessed on videotape after Paul Ciolino, a private investigator hired by Protess, convinced him that he was about to be arrested but that if he cooperated, he would do at most a couple of years in prison. Instead he was sentenced to 30 seven years.

Professor Protess vehemently denies Simon's assertions.

However, I don't think it's unreasonable Alstory Simon at least gets a hearing in court to tell his story one more time.

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