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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Innocence Project Appears to Have Framed Innocent Man

Alstory Simon was recently released from an Illinois prison after serving 15 out of 37 years for murder. The Cook County attorney's office vacated the charges against him after concluding that he was likely innocent of the murder he had pleaded guilty to back in 1999.

As is the case in several other cases of overturned murder charges, the Innocence Project (an anti-death penalty advocacy group which focuses on trying to clear convicted murderers who are awaiting the death penalty) is mixed up in this story. However, unlike many other such cases, the reason why Simon was in prison in the first place is that Innocence Project volunteers are reported to have framed Alstory Simon for murder, in order to get another man originally convicted of the crime (Anthony Porter, who likely was in fact guilty) out of prison and off death row. Jim Stingl of the Journal-Sentinel tells the story:

Last week, Simon walked out of prison a free man after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that her office, after a yearlong investigation, was vacating the charges against him and ending his 37-year sentence.

The investigation by the Medill Innocence Project, she said, "involved a series of alarming tactics that were not only coercive and absolutely unacceptable by law enforcement standards, they were potentially in violation of Mr. Simon's constitutionally protected rights."
Protess and two of his journalism students came to Simon's home in the 200 block of E. Wright St. in Milwaukee and told him they were working on a book about unsolved murders. According to Simon, Protess told him, "We know you did it."

Then Simon received a visit from Ciolino and another man. They had guns and badges and claimed to be Chicago police officers. They said they knew he had killed Green and Hillard, so he better confess if he hoped to avoid the death penalty.

They showed him a video of his ex-wife, Inez Jackson, implicating him for the crime — a claim she recanted on her death bed in 2005 — and another video of a supposed witness to the crime who turned out to be an actor.

They coached Simon through a videotaped confession, promising him a light sentence and money from book and movie deals on the case. Simon, admittedly on a three-day crack cocaine bender, struggled to understand what was going on.

Perhaps worst of all, they hooked up Simon with a free lawyer to represent him, Jack Rimland, without telling him that Rimland was a friend of Ciolino and Protess and in on their plan to free Porter.

At Rimland's urging, Simon pleaded guilty to the crime and even offered what sounded like a sincere apology to Green's family in court. As added leverage to make him cooperate, Rimland had told Simon he was suspected in a Milwaukee murder, though nothing ever came of it.
When his abuses came to light, Protess was suspended by Northwestern and has since retired from there. The Medill Innocence Project has been renamed The Medill Justice Project. Protess isn't talking, but he is now president of the Chicago Innocence Project, which investigates wrongful convictions. Ciolino put out a statement saying Simon also had confessed to a Milwaukee TV reporter, his lawyer and others.

"You explain that," he said.

We know now that the explanation was that Simon was snared in a trap set by people who wanted to end the death penalty, no matter what the cost. Once they convinced Simon it was for his own good, he was all in.
As Hot Air observes, if this account of Simon's framing by the Innocence Project is true, there need to be consequences. Not only do they appear to have put an innocent man behind bars to get a guilty man out, but their media pull has arguably kept a lid on this (and Simon in jail) for a number of years longer than it should have taken for the truth to come out. The American Thinker points out that there's been good evidence that the original conviction was accurate since 2005:
The first public clue came in 2005, when Porter incredibly lost his $24 million civil lawsuit to recover damages for his “wrongful” prosecution, conviction and incarceration. In the extremely favorable venue of Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, after months of favorable press coverage, Porter nonetheless lost because the defense lawyers were able to show that Porter probably committed the murders. It came to light that Northwestern’s alleged witness reversal was overstated and that handfuls of people saw Porter in the vicinity of the crime, several saw him holding a gun, and two saw him fire the fatal shots. Those facts were ignored in the media frenzy at the time of Porter’s release.

As Simon’s lawyers dug into the case, a more sinister side of the story emerged. In a carefully detailed letter to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office asking for a rehearing of the case, Simon’s lawyers are claiming that Protess and private investigator Ciolino illegally coerced the confession from Simon, using a series of questionable tactics and promising him a short “self-defense” sentence and eventual riches from book and movie deals.

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