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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  1. Appalling but unsurprising. The “Innocence Project” has thrived on extremely dubious confessions, recantations and the fact that over time DNA samples can degrade increasing the risk of false negatives. That courts have allowed themselves to be taken in by these type of tactics says all you need to know about our judicial system and its often craven reaction to sustained media campaigns whipped up by activists unconcerned with actual guilt or innocence of those on death row.

  2. It was over 20 Years Ago, when I was involved in an Integrity Investigation, as lead investigator for the City of New York, in regards to the Fitness of certain “Charities”, to use that term loosely, as they were licensed to conduct Games Of Chance and BINGO. I recall that the vast majority were pocketing the revenue, not for Charity, but for the profit of The Commercial Lessor and the Gambling Rings involved.
    But, a Suspicious Acting Superior was often spotted with these Operators in her off hours, tipping the Operators off. She went to Like Minded Superiors and began a “Whispering Campaign”, saying to those Superiors that She can prove that I was NOT To be Trusted.
    She arranged to have an investigator, who was found to be unfit for duty, sent with me for the purpose of training the unfit unvestigator, who never obeyed any instructions except for whatever the Female Superior told her to do, for the purpose of halting any Investigations into Illicit Licensees by me.
    And this Female Superior had a network of Lackeys who would testify falsely, for Political Favors, for going along with her and be rewarded for this. I was forced into an uncertain future in 1992, In this episode I do recall that this Superior also said to me that I should give up my Catholic Faith and become a Christian like she is and how much better it would be for me.
    I still persevere in my Catholic Faith, which is not easy, as I am Retired on Disability. I was scheduled to give a Deposition in 2008, but was forced onto “Mental Health Sick Leave”, to protect this Superior and her Corrupt Crew of Lackeys, who promise those who cooperate with her crew that they will receive certain benefits for what often turns out to be done by coercion.
    And my conscience is clear. I can sleep nights.

  3. Anybody who has had interaction with “Innocence Project” activists and happened to identify something they said that was false– can be Catholic doctrine or about a criminal case– shouldn’t be surprised by this. They will fight tooth and nail to discredit even the most obvious of corrections, and you’ll find them making the same claim in a week. Even if you get them to recognize something as a correction, it will go from the basis for a sweeping judgement to an exception… even if they can’t find a counter-example. And they’ll use the exact same style.
    It’s standard “ends justify the means” activism. They believe their cause is just, and so they’re willing to lie, cheat and maul the truth in what they believe is a greater Truth. Think like all the bad movie religious who do horrible things and justify themselves because they’re on the side of good.
    Does that county not have rules about impersonating a police officer for illegal intimidation?

  4. 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.


    How does Rimland not get disbarred here?

  5. So will the original murderer, Porter, be re-interred? If not, what a terrible miscarriage of justice! And btw, what causes DNA samples to degrade? From popular science (and of course TV shows) you get the sense that it lasts forever.

  6. Pretty much *everything* degrades DNA, from what I remember– air, water, light, time… basically, genetic evidence isn’t always stored as great as it theoretically could be, especially after it’s already been tested and the guy identified is behind bars.

  7. This is a surprise. The usual complaint about the Innocence Project is that in their public relations they conflate convictions vacated due to the discrediting of some piece of evidence with demonstrations of actual innocence.

    I guess you cannot really rely on the public interest bar or ‘human rights’ organization. Middle East Watch is basically a press agency for Arab nationalists, Amnesty International once put Wesley Cook (aka Mumia Abu Jamal) on their list of ‘prisoners of conscience’ and years before had hired an Australian Communist as their research director; and the fraudulence of the ACLU is well known. Still, I’m surprised if Mr. Scheck’s group engineered something this underhanded.

  8. Don’t forget the “Southern Poverty Law Center.”

    That was exposed as a seedy direct mail mill 15 years ago in an admission against interest published in Harpers. That it’s ever quoted in the press is indicative of journalistic malfeasance or negligence.

  9. I believe there was much to be said for the old rule in criminal cases that “All interlocutors and sentences pronounced by the High Court of Justiciary… shall be final and conclusive, and not subject to review by any court whatsoever, and it shall be incompetent to stay or suspend any execution or diligence issuing forth of the High Court of Justiciary under the authority of the same.”

    In the case of an obvious miscarriage of justice, the Crown could grant a free pardon.

  10. The Medill Innocence Project at NW University is not affiliated with The Innocence Project in New York.
    That claim will hold more water after their website finishes scrubbing their website of all the places they claim Protess’ work, instead of just moving the renamed group to an “other” listing– they’ll have to do something about the Innocence Network, too, since there are a ton of easily (searchengined) resources where they openly state that they are affiliated via that network. Down side of using colleges as free labor for your activism, it gets cited.
    They’ll have to go back and memory-hole the news releases that identify the Medill Innocence Project as in affiliated.
    Not sure if they’ll be able to retroactively dispel them when they brought Supreme Court cases claiming them as affiliates, though.

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