Witness challenges wrongful conviction case

September 1, 2011 5:02:59 AM PDT
In the Danville state penitentiary, a man named Alstory Simon is serving 37 years for committing a double murder. It is a crime Anthony Porter was originally convicted of and came within two days of being executed.

Now, there are new accusations of misconduct against some of those who worked to get Porter free and Simon behind bars.

"I seen Tony Porter do it, I looked right in his face and I seen him, seen his long braids, he's got a tattoo in his face, I seen everything," said witness Ray Brown.

Brown was 12 years old the summer of '82 and living in the projects. He says at night he and his friends would jump the fence at a city pool to swim. According to an affidavit, one night that August he saw Anthony Porter shoot and kill a man and his pregnant girlfriend.

"He terrified the neighborhood, he was a stone cold killer. So, when anyone hear his name, Tony Porter, everybody run in your house. He had a bad reputation. I'm 42 now and that happened over 30 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday," said Brown.

Brown, who would later be convicted of burglary, is now a downstate landscaper. He says he never went to police because he was a scared 12-year-old. And because Anthony Porter, the man he claims was the shooter, was arrested.

"The police locked him up for it so I thought it was a done deal till I seen him on the news getting out and I'm like, how'd he get out when he killed them? And they showed another guy's face and that wasn't the guy who killed him," said Brown.

Porter got out of prison because in 1999 Alstory Simon man confessed.

"I never saw Simon a day in my life. I knew for a fact it wasn't him. I seen Tony Porter do it, I looked right in his face and I seen him," said Brown.

Brown's statement is the centerpiece of a complaint lodged Wednesday with the Illinois Supreme Court's attorney disciplinary commission, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).

The complaint accuses Jack Rimland, Alstory Simon's attorney, of intentionally withholding evidence that Simon was innocent and his confession was coerced. At his West Side office, Mr. Rimland declined comment.

"We believe he was part of a very complicated sweeping conspiracy," said William Crawford. "It's a complete outrage."

The complaint was researched by Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago journalist Bill Crawford who says he reviewed grand jury testimony from 1999 before Alstory Simon was sentenced -- testimony from original witnesses to the double murder.

"They did not mention Alstory Simon's presence in the park, in the pool area, half of them didn't know who Alstory Simon was," said Crawford.

As for Anthony Porter, ABC7's Chuck Goudie interviewed him Wednesday about the new allegations.

"I'm just tired of this stuff, ya know, that I'm innocent, and these people just keep coming and bringing this stuff up like a ransom, putting my life in danger, my family in danger, ya know like saying people don't know nothing about the case. People know that I'm innocent," said Porter.

Those who signed the complaint asking for a Supreme Court ARDC investigation include a Chicago police officer and two former federal agents who work for Alstory Simon's current lawyer.

ARDC officials usually decide within two weeks whether they will open an investigation. Simon's lawyers have been trying to get a court hearing but have so far been unsuccessful.

Former Northwestern professor David Protess, who founded the Innocence Project, is highly critical of the complaint against a man he calls "a honorable lawyer."

Statement from David Protess, former Northwestern University professor who led Medill Innocence Project:

"These are the same bogus claims that were twice brought before a criminal courts judge and the Illinois court of appeals -- and twice rejected. Having lost before every judge who has reviewed this matter, Alstory Simon's advocates are now reduced to file a bar complaint against an honorable lawyer who got Simon 37 years for a crime that had landed Anthony Porter on death row.

Further, the brief passage about me is factually inaccurate. Ciolino was not "working" for me when he went to Milwaukee to interview Simon, and Simon's advocates incorrectly identified the other person who accompanied him.

I frankly can't believe a journalist of your caliber would dignify this with a story. See Eric Zorn's columns about the subject in 2005-06, including Judge Clay's decision to flatly dismiss the case."


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