Anthony Porter
Anthony Porter was a prisoner on death row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

 whose conviction was overturned in 1999 due to the investigation of two Northwestern University School of Law
Northwestern University School of Law
The Northwestern University School of Law is a private American law school in Chicago, Illinois. The law school was founded in 1859 as the Union College of Law of the Old University of Chicago. The first law school established in Chicago, it became jointly controlled by Northwestern University in...

 professors and students from the Medill School of Journalism
Medill School of Journalism
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is a constituent school of Northwestern University which offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. It has consistently been one of the top-ranked schools in Journalism in the United States...

, and is notable for being an exonerated
Exoneration occurs when a person who has been convicted of a crime is later proved to have been innocent of that crime. Attempts to exonerate convicts are particularly controversial in death penalty cases, especially where new evidence is put forth after the execution has taken place.The term...

 death row inmate that was once 50 hours away from execution.

The crime

In August 1982, two teenagers, Marilyn Green and her fiance Jerry Hillard, were shot and killed near a swimming pool in Washington Park on the south side of Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. Porter, then a 27 year old gang member, was implicated in the crime by William Taylor, who had been swimming in the pool at the time of the shooting. Initially, Taylor said that he had not seen the crime itself. Later, he said that he had seen Porter run past shortly after the shots. Eventually, after intensive interrogation, he claimed to have seen Porter actually firing the shots.

Police were given leads pointing toward other suspects, including information from Green's mother suggesting that a man named Alstory Simon had killed the pair for drug-related reasons, but they chose to pursue only Porter. Upon hearing that he was under suspicion, Porter went to the police in the hope of clearing his name. He was immediately arrested and charged with the two murders, one count of armed robbery, one count of unlawful restraint, and two counts of unlawful use of weapons.

After a short trial during which, according to court transcripts, Porter's lawyer fell asleep and never met with Porter himself until just before the start of proceedings, Judge Robert L. Sklodowski sentenced Porter to death, calling him a "perverse shark". An appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was denied in February 1986, and an appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied the following year. Porter continued to file appeals in the years that followed, delaying the execution.

In 1995 Porter was tested to have an IQ of 51, meaning that he may have been moderately retarded. A new appeal was filed on the grounds that Porter was incapable of understanding his punishment. Forty-eight hours before he was scheduled to be executed in 1998, another stay was granted.

A new investigation

In 1998, students in a journalism course taught by Northwestern University
Northwestern University
Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, USA. Northwestern has eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools offering 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees....

 professor David Protess investigated the crime as part of a class assignment for the Medill Innocence Project. Two years earlier, evidence uncovered by students in the course had freed four men falsely accused of killing a suburban couple. This time, the students assigned to the Porter case gathered evidence exposing serious flaws in the prosecution. Student Tom McCann and a private investigator spoke to William Taylor, who, in December 1998, recanted his original confession, saying that Chicago police had "threatened, harassed and intimidated" him into accusing Porter. Another student noted that the shot had been fired by a left-handed shooter; Porter was right-handed.

On January 29, 1999, Inez Jackson, the estranged wife of Alstory Simon, came forward and said that she had been with Simon when he killed Hilliard in retaliation for "skimming money from drug deals." She also confirmed that she had never met or seen Porter. Her nephew, whose apartment Simon fled to after the shooting, came forward to corroborate her story. Four days later, on February 3, Simon himself confessed to the crime on videotape. Protess and the students came forward with the information. Two days later, Porter was released from prison, having spent 17 years on death row, and the charges against him were dropped the next month. Simon was formally charged with the murders. In September of 1999, Alstory Simon pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder and was sentenced to 37½ years in prison.


State officials initially denied any wrongdoing. Chicago's Mayor Daley
Richard M. Daley
Richard Michael Daley is a United States politician, member of the national and local Democratic Party, and former Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. He was elected mayor in 1989 and reelected in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. He was the longest serving Chicago mayor, surpassing the tenure of his...

, who had been head of the state's attorney's office during the prosecution, asserted that "It was a thorough case, it was reviewed. No one railroads anyone." Illinois Governor George Ryan
George Ryan
George Homer Ryan, Sr. was the 39th Governor of the U.S. state of Illinois from 1999 until 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party. Ryan became nationally known when in 2000 he imposed a moratorium on executions and "raised the national debate on capital punishment"...

 suggested that the exoneration was evidence that the system worked. In light of the four men previously freed with the help of Protess' students, however, and the recently exposed mis-prosecution of Rolando Cruz
Rolando Cruz case
In February 1985, a Hispanic man from Aurora, Illinois named Rolando Cruz and a co-defendant were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the 1983 kidnapping, rape, deviant sexual assault and murder of 10-year old Jeanine Nicarico in DuPage County Circuit Court despite the fact that the police...

 and Alex Hernandez by Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan
Jim Ryan (politician)
James E. Ryan is an American politician who served two four-year terms as Illinois Attorney General. A career Republican, he received his party's nomination and ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Illinois against Rod Blagojevich in 2002. He has been a professor at Benedictine University since 2003...

 for the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico, the problems could no longer be overlooked. Under intense pressure from the public and the media, Governor Ryan initiated a moratorium on executions in Illinois.

External links

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