Crooked City

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An Open Letter to Sun Times Reporter Fran Spielman

Dear Fran,

About your recent article on Jon Burge’s statement condemning city reparations to exonerated offenders. 

The first word in the title of your article was “Disgraced.”

Burge’s statement mentions two cases, Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley. In your article, you do not discuss them, though Burge points to them as examples of rampant corruption in the wrongful conviction movement. 

It’s clear why you wouldn’t want to bring attention to them.  

Madison Hobley was angry at his wife because he had a mistress and he didn’t want to give her up.  So he set a fire in January of 1987 outside the door of his apartment while his wife and baby boy were sleeping inside. The fire engulfed the building. Seven people were burned to death, including his wife and child, 17 others badly injured. Some people were severely burned, others broke bones jumping from the windows to escape the flames. 

No wrongful conviction lawyer or Chicago journalist has ever explained how it could be that detectives, supervisors, and a host of other officers, scattered around the city at various hospitals, the morgue, the homes of witnesses, and the crime scene, could somehow conspire to pin the murders on a man they never knew hours after the fire. They never explain why the detectives would frame a man who had just lost his own wife and son in an arson, beyond some vague conception of these officers as completely evil. Nor do they explain how they could establish their fraudulent claims, never knowing if other evidence would arise revealing their fraud. 

In the twisted, self-indulgent mindset of the wrongful conviction activists and their journalist supporters, explaining such facts are inconvenient and unnecessary. They are, however, crucial in a trial, one reason Hobley was found guilty. 

Here are the established facts of the case. Jon Burge actually had nothing to do with the case whatsoever. Some of his colleagues investigated. They found Hobley, amassed a great body of evidence, including his confession, twice, and provided the basis for his conviction. He was sentenced to death. All of his appeals failed. 

The wrongful conviction activists in Chicago defied the entire criminal justice system that convicted Hobley. After a secret meeting between Hobley’s attorney, Andrea Lyon, and former Governor Ryan, a man renowned for his shocking absence of morality, Ryan pardoned Hobley, along with several other inmates who could never convince a court that they were innocent. 

Hobley’s attorneys, indeed, the entire wrongful conviction community, could never have gotten away with freeing Hobley had not reporters like you bought into their wild claims without questioning them or looking at the facts of the case.  

There was never any doubt that Hobley set the fire that killed seven people. 

But that’s not the worst of it. 

Up until Hobley was exonerated, wrongful conviction activists, particularly Flint Taylor, whom you quote at length in your article, were never able to get a criminal conviction against Burge. When Burge denied abusing anyone in the civil case brought by Hobley, federal prosecutors charged him with perjury and obstruction of justice. That’s how Burge was convicted. 

You and the Sun Times, indeed, the entire Chicago media machine are engaged in a vast coverup about the Hobley murders.

The Hobley exoneration, therefore, is a testament not to police corruption, but to a level of media corruption that is difficult to describe. 

It’s just as bad in the Porter case, when reporters like you ignored overwhelming evidence of criminal conspiracy by wrongful conviction activists, who freed killer Anthony Porter and sent an innocent man, Alstory Simon, to prison for more than a decade. Burge was trying to point this corruption out to you, and all the reporters in Chicago, in his statement, but you, true to form, will not give it any attention. 

“Disgraced” would be an understatement for you, your paper, and your colleagues in the media.

After all, to convict Burge, wrongful conviction activists and their media sycophants like you had to liberate a man who incinerated his own family.

Very Truly Yours,

The Conviction Project