Anthony Porter's case opens door to other wrongful convictions in Illinois

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Anthony Porter, who spent more than 15 years on death row before his exoneration helped bring an end to the death penalty in Illinois, died at the age of 66.

His case opened the door for a new look at several other wrongful conviction cases in Illinois.

Porter was 48 hours away from being executed for a double murder when a judge in 1998 granted a stay. Porter's attorney's argued his IQ was too low for him to understand why he facing the death penalty.

"He was a poor little soul that really didn't know much and never really understood, I don't think, what he went to jail for or why he went there," said George Ryan, former Illinois governor.

It was not until a year later when the Porter case caught the eye of then Gov. George Ryan. After 17 years in prison, Porter was released after another man, Alstory Simon, made a videotaped confession to a group of Northwestern University journalism students investigating the case.

"How could an innocent man sit on death row wondering everyday when he got out of bed whether it was going to be the day he was going to be executed or not," Ryan said.

The Porter case pushed Ryan to call for a moratorium on the death penalty. Ryan's decision as governor has been covered in his book, "Until I Could Be Sure."

In 2011, the death penalty was abolished in Illinois for good. However, the controversy over the Porter case lingered on. Simon recanted his confession and said he was tricked into the confession by the team of Northwestern investigators.

Simon, who had been convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison for the double murder, was released in 2014 after Cook County State's attorney Anita Alvarez concluded his case was corrupted and could no longer maintain the legitimacy of Simon's conviction.

Ryan said Porter's death this week is a reminder for him to keep fighting to the end the death penalty nationwide.
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