Crooked City

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Is There a Thin Red Line in Wrongful Conviction Movement?

For 14 years the Chicago Tribune published a narrative about the Anthony Porter case that was false. In publishing this narrative, they helped wrongful conviction activists at Northwestern University's Innocence Project release a murderer, Anthony Porter, and convict the wrong man, Alstory Simon.

When lawyers, cops, retired journalists attempted to show these Tribune writers and their editors that their claims were without merit, the Tribune writers vilified them.

Probably the greatest example of vilification was when Attorney Walter Jones argued in a 2005 civil trial against detectives that Porter was guilty. The jury ruled in favor of Jones and the police. Afterward, no journalists took a step back and questioned what the ruling meant. One journalist, Eric Zorn, went so far as to assail Jones for even contending that Porter was guilty.

But there is another sinister side to the story. Throughout the many years that the Porter case has unfolded, no wrongful conviction lawyers, academics or activists ever questioned the legitimacy of the Porter exoneration or the wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon for the murders. These lawyers, academics and activists made plenty of claims for wrongful conviction in other cases, none of which held nearly the evidence of corruption and fraudulence that the Porter/Simon case did, but still none of them would touch the Porter/Simon case. 

Many wrongful conviction cases include the claim that a thin blue line of secrecy compels police officers to back each other up and to lie. But the Porter case poses the same question about the wrongful conviction activists and their activists in the media. Otherwise, why wouldn't any of them have taken up the Porter/Simon case? 

After all, there was a mountain of evidence, based upon the public record, that showed how dirty the Porter/Simon case was and that Alstory Simon was clearly wrongfully convicted.  

Want more evidence? Check out Pulitizer Prize winning journalist Bill Crawford's description of trying to get coverage of the Porter case.