Northwestern University's 'Innocence Project' railroads an innocent man

At least that’s the conclusion that can be reached after Cook County Presiding Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel, at the request of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, ordered Alstory Simon released from prison. It’s a complicated story, but what’s clear is that a huge miscarriage of justice was committed by the Northwestern University’s Innocence Project, journalism “professor” David Protess, his naive students, private investigator Paul Ciolino and Simon’s attorney, Jack Rimland.

Their railroading of Simon for the 1982 murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard on Chicago’s South Side won them national and international praise and led to the freeing of the man convicted by a jury of the murders, Anthony Porter. A man who remains free after a thorough vetting of facts reveals that the jury appears to have made the right decision. Now the reputation of the university and those who participated in this travesty will be, at or least should be, permanently soiled.

For a better understanding of how this great injustice occurred, I strongly recommend that readers pick up Crooked City, by Martin Preib. It’ll knock your socks off and confirm, once again, how power backed by blind ideology can corrupt even the greatest of institutions.

In this second collection of connected essays*, Chicago cop Martin Preib takes on seemingly unrelated murder cases, all dating from one year, 1982, including some in which offenders were released as part of the wrongful conviction movement. This book shatters reader assumptions—about the workings of justice, the objectivity of the media, and the role of the police in the city of Chicago, even calling into question allegations of police torture in the notorious cases against Jon Burge. Told in the gripping tension of a crime novel, Preib strives for the highest language as he wanders these brutal, controversial killings.

Yes, yes, I know, it looks like I’m taking the side of reputed torturer John Berge, but before you send an angry comment, read the book.

Thanks also goes to two often-maligned lawyers, Terry Ekl and Jim Sotos, who fought hard for Simon. I’ll be waiting for public apologies from the  innocence crowd and their media acolytes who trashed them.

By the way, you’ll hear arguments from the wrongful conviction crowd that because Simon is not guilty it doesn’t necessarily mean that Porter is guilty. Read Preib’s book and the work of determined campaigners for justice, such as Bill Crawford and Dan Curry.

Why is this case so important? The Innocence Project and the university’s Center on Wrongful Convictions regarded the Porter “exoneration” as the lynch pin for the entire movement. Upon Porter’s release from prison, the Project and the Center hailed it as a major step forward in their campaign against what they regarded as a corrupt criminal justice system marred by “mistakes and missteps at every juncture of our justice system—from the moment the yellow crime tape goes up until the last appeal.” The Porter case, especially, was instrumental in former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s imposing a moratorium on executions. Ryan’s move, while hailed in the media, was a cynical attempt to redirect the spotlight from a federal corruption investigation that eventually landed him in prison. Surely, they did free some innocent men, but how many were exonerated when they were actually guilty?

Alvarez explains:

This talented writer’s first book is “The Wagon and Other Stories from the City.”

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  • Everyone in law enforcement, including prosecutors, knew Protess was gaming the system. When he finally got caught and was discredited and disgraced, what did he do? He started his own innocence project. He is still a hero in media circles. Protess is a villain. But guys like him just cannot be publicly shamed.and disgraced.

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    This is another example of how far prosecutors will go -- put the killer back on the street -- to salvage their own egos. Protess did the right thing, and no good deed goes unpunished. Misleading poor, naive Alstory Simon into confessing is standard operating for police -- they call it T&D, trickery and deceit -- and the US Supreme Court has endorsed it. So please, get off that high horse. It only has a back end.

  • In reply to Sheila Berry:

    They put the killer back on the streets when they released Porter. Protess and his crowd used the same tactics on Simon that you condemn the police for using. The difference is that Protess et al are not law enforcement officials, which--what?--makes it okay?

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    actually in justice handled that exact point brilliantly. Basically the real murderer is caught because the team used the same lie the cops used. They told the framed kid his blood was found on the blade; they use the same lie on the killer (that they used dna testing) and the killer caves. At the end of the episode (after earlier in the show the hero is asked why those tactics he used as a cop were okay then but not when he was with the innocence project and he's forced to bring up one time where those tactics got an innocent person convicted) he's pointed out; the team is forced to conclude that life is complicated and that yes those tactics are skeezy but not done for the evilz.

    If anything its that those tactics can backfire and get innocent people in jail. It's not an easy answer but by and large those tactics can be dangerous and must be used carefully.

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