There are thousands of black men in prison for crimes they did not commit. Rather than doing a full scale overhaul of the criminal justice system, we get case-by-case situations where injustice is revealed to have occurred many years ago. The latest case is in Cook County, which holds the city of Chicago.
A judge ordered the release of Alstory Simon for a 1982 double homicide for which he was unfairly prosecuted. Simon had been convicted for the murders after another man had originally been convicted and released. Anthony Porter was the first man convicted, but it turns out that this conviction was flawed in many ways.
Prosecutors claim that Simon confessed to the crime, but there is evidence that he was forced into signing the confession. Because the case has so many problems, prosecutors asked the judge to drop all charges against Simon and release him immediately. His case is just one of many in the state of Illinois that came from coerced confessions. This is part of what led the state to drop the death penalty after so many innocent individuals, mostly black men, were sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit.
They offered no explanation, but at a Thursday morning news conference, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez explained: “Justice compels that I take action.”
Alvarez said that the re-investigation of the case, led by then Northerwestern University journalism professor David Protess and his students, used “alarming tactics” and noted that there were witnesses to this day who maintain Porter was the real killer.
Back in 1999, though, Cook County prosecutors offered a different story, assuring the public that justice was served when Porter was freed from prison for the notorious double murder.
Porter came within hours of being executed — and his release became a driving force in former Gov. George Ryan’s decision to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.