Cook Co.’s top prosecutor to review high-profile murder conviction
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter October 22, 2013 5:10PM
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:36AM
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez will review the high-profile conviction of Alstory Simon, who was sent to prison for a double slaying after Anthony Porter was cleared of the crimes and freed from Death Row just days before his 1998 execution date.
Alvarez’s decision to have her Conviction Integrity Unit review the case was in response to an Oct. 8 letter from attorneys James Sotos and Terry Ekl, who contended that an advocate for Porter coerced a confession from Simon in the 1982 killings.
“It’s not unlike the other cases we have taken up,” said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Alvarez.
The convictions of James Kluppelberg, Alprentiss Nash, Daniel Taylor, Nicole Harris, Lathierial Boyd and Carl Chatman have all been vacated since the Conviction Integrity Unit was created in 2012, Daly said. The unit has received more than 150 requests to review convictions, she said.
In Porter’s case, former Northwestern University professor David Protess and his students at the Medill School of Journalism had worked to prove his innocence and identify Simon as the killer.
But in their letter, Sotos and Ekl said Protess worked with a private investigator who used “illegal tactics” to persuade Simon to confess. The tactics included showing Simon a phony video of an actor claiming he witnessed Simon commit the murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green near a swimming pool in Washington Park, according to Sotos and Ekl.
Protess said he wasn’t present during the confession, but found the videotaped confession to be convincing evidence of Simon’s guilt. Simon didn’t seem under duress and even acted out how he shot the victims, Protess said.
Later, in court, Simon turned to the mother and children of one of the victims and gave a tearful apology, Protess noted.
“I don’t have any problems with them taking another look at this case,” he said, but added: “I am concerned about the likely waste of taxpayer dollars because the state’s attorney’s office has already reviewed the case twice.”
Then-State’s Attorney Richard Devine’s office prosecuted Simon in 1999. Simon pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 37 years in prison. He’s eligible for parole in August 2017.
Porter’s release from prison in 1999 was a key factor in then-Gov. George Ryan declaring a moratorium on the death penalty the next year, fearing the state might be at risk of executing the innocent. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011.