Crooked City

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Alstory Simon Makes Claim For Innocence

The Conviction Project pulled an Eric Zorn: We got a story completely wrong.

 Turns out lawyers for Alstory Simon did not file a petition for a Certificate of Innocence several weeks ago. They filed it just the other day.

 So we apologize.

 The petition for a Certificate of Innocence is a crucial step in the battle to bring some accountability to the wrongful conviction movement.

 The Anthony Porter exoneration is a key wrongful conviction case from 1999. Porter’s release from death row for a 1982 double murder precipitated the release of dozens of convicted killers based on the claims that police and or prosecutors conspired to frame the men. But now the evidence is mounting that Porter’s exoneration was a conspiracy by members of the Innocence Project at Northwestern University. In order to get Porter out, Professor David Protess and his Private Investigator, Paul Ciolino, and an attorney named Jack Rimland framed an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for the murders.

 Citing malfeasance by Protess, Ciolino, and Rimland, Cook County State’s Attorney freed Simon from prison several months ago. Now Simon is asking for the Certificate of Innocence.

 If the Certificate of Innocence is granted, it would be a shocking turn of events in a criminal case that spans thirty years. Porter’s 1999 exoneration was once based on the claim that Chicago Police detectives illegally framed Porter and that they ignored evidence that Simon was the killer.

 Now the tables have turned, and the evidence is showing that Northwestern investigators David Protess and Paul Ciolino were quite possibly the real criminals.

 “State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez further noted that the conduct of Protess and Ciolino in coercing Simon’s statement may have constituted the crimes of obstruction of justice and witness intimidation but that these crimes were barred by the statute of limitations,” Simon’s lawyers wrote in their petition. 

 One theme that permeates the petition by Simon’s lawyers is the strange power David Protess had over the media in the case, in defiance of the evidence. Somehow, Protess was able to “bull rush” the story that Simon was the killer without local journalists even looking at the facts of the case.

 “(Witness William) Taylor’s coerced affidavit, along with the misrepresentation and fabrications made by Protess, were intentionally calculated to create a public sentiment that would influence the prosecuting authorities to free Porter,” Simon’s layers argue.

 “Protess’ intent in releasing Simon’s false confession first to the media, instead of to the prosecuting authorities, was to create a massive public sentiment that Porter was innocent of the murders in order to improperly influence the prosecuting authorities to free Porter and prosecute Simon for the murders.”

 These are serious allegations against the Chicago media, almost as if they are co-conspirators in the case. It will be interesting to see Eric Zorn and Steve Mills from the Tribune, Mike Miner from the Chicago Reader and other journalists defend themselves from these accusations. 

 Many questions now hang in the air.

 Will Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez contest the petition? It would be a huge gamble if she did. After all, it was her own office that acknowledged possible criminal actions on the part of Ciolino and Protess. She also assailed the conduct of Simon’s original lawyer, Jack Rimland.

 Would any judge or prosecutor contest Simon’s petition in a courtroom given all the evidence of his innocence?

 One never knows in the Crooked City.