An unusual hearing is set to begin Thursday to determine if a death row
inmate is smart enough to be executed for killing a South Side couple in 1982.
Anthony Porter, 43, who received a temporary stay of execution from the Illinois Supreme Court last year when his attorney alleged he had a very low IQ, is scheduled to appear before Thomas Fitzgerald, the presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, for the hearing.
The defense portion of the hearing will likely involve a trip to the Dirksen Federal Building for all parties involved. Daniel Sanders, Porter's attorney, has said he intends to call 5 witnesses on Porter's behalf who are inmates on death row. Rather than face security challenges of bringing them to Chicago, Fitzgerald determined their testimony best would be given by video
conference in a courtroom equipped to provide it. The hearing, which is expected to take several days, will be much like a mini-trial, said Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Gainer, who will
prosecute Porter. Prosecutors will have to prove that Porter is fit to be executed and that his IQ will not impair his ability to understand he is to be put to death, Gainer said.
State law requires that inmates understand their punishment before they are executed. Sanders has not yet indicated whether he will choose to have a jury or Fitzgerald decide his client's fate. 4 of the death row inmates he plans to call are at Menard Correctional
Center and one is at Pontiac Correctional Center, and all have been housed near Porter. Sanders said they will be called to discuss Porter's character. Porter, whose appeals had been exhausted, was scheduled to be the first inmate to be put to death in the state's new "super-maximum" security prison in Downstate Tamms last Sept. 23. But Porter's lawyer filed an emergency motion to stay the execution, citing extensive evaluations by a psychologist who says Porter has an IQ of 51--roughly half of the normal level. The new evidence, which suggests Porter is at least moderately retarded, gave the Supreme Court justices enough reason to order further evaluation.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
in the case of a Death Row inmate whose attorneys say his IQ is too low
for him to be put to death obtained a delay in a hearing on the matter until
Monday as they awaited the results of a recent medical test.
Anthony Porter, 43, received a stay of execution from the Illinois Supreme
Court last year after his attorney alleged that his very low IQ should make
him ineligible to be put to death. Porter was sentenced
to die for killing a couple in a South Side park in 1982.
When he appeared before Judge Thomas Fitzgerald, presiding judge of Cook
County Circuit Court, on Thursday, defense attorney Daniel Sanders said he needed more time to speak to a neurologist about the results of a magnetic resonance imaging test of Porter's brain. Prosecutors said they also will need to speak with the neurologist. When the hearing resumes Monday, Fitzgerald will borrow a courtroom at the Dirksen Federal Building that is equipped with a video conference setup so other death row inmates can testify from prison and eliminate any security concerns about them testifying in person. After hearing evidence, Fitzgerald will determine whether Porter is fit to be executed. State law requires that inmates sentenced to death be able to understand the punishment. Porter's attorney says his client's IQ
is 51--roughly half of what is considered normal. "The people of the State of Illinois cannot lose this case," said Prosecutor Thomas Gainer. "If he truly is unfit for execution, then he
shouldn't be executed. But if the evidence shows he is fit, then the sentence imposed many years ago should be carried out." "I pray about this everyday," said Porter's daughter, Evelyn Porter, 27, who attended Thursday's brief hearing with a group of family members.
"The truth is, he didn't (kill the couple)." "I'm trying to save him," said Porter's mother, Clara Porter, 71. "And exonerate him," said Evelyn Porter's maternal grandmother, Evelyn Jones,
70. Before the Supreme Court acted, Porter had been scheduled to die last Sept. 23.
Springfield, the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out the deadline
for deciding whether death row inmate Anthony Porter is competent to be
Justice Michael Bilandic vacated a previous deadline of Feb. 26 and set no new date for Porter's hearing. Porter's attorneys claim he has an abnormally low IQ and should not be executed. Both the Cook County state's attorney and defense attorney Daniel Sanders
said they want additional time to perform medical tests and pursue new
evidence offered in two affidavits. One affidavit was signed by William Taylor, who testified against Porter in his trial. Taylor now says police threatened, harassed and intimidated him into naming Porter. In the other affidavit, Walter Jackson, an inmate at Danville Correctional Center, said the victims were killed in a dispute over money. Porter's attorneys claim he has an abnormally low IQ and killing him would be cruel and unusual punishment. Porter, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Marilyn Green, 19, and Jerry Hillard, 18, as the 2 sat on bleachers at Chicago's Washington Park Pool in 1982.
Bilandic's order requires attorneys to file status reports with the court by May 2.
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Simon always knew that, one day, the knock would come on her door and the
haunting past would rush in. Last week it came. 2 female journalism students from Northwestern
who had tracked her through a network of her relatives and other tips
appeared at her home in Milwaukee with cryptic news: An incarcerated relative has a message for you, and we'd like an appointment to talk it over. Simon agreed to go to a restaurant with the young women several days later. With them was their professor, David Protess, and Chicago private investigator Paul Ciolino. The message, they told her, was from her nephew, Walter Jackson, now incarcerated for murder at Illinois' Danville Correctional Center, and it urged her to tell the real story about what happened on Aug. 15, 1982.
Relief flooded over her, she told me in an interview later that day. "I'd thought about it all the time," she said. Telling the story "lifted a big burden from my heart." She said she was on the scene that night, sitting next to her good friend Marilyn Green when Green and her fiance, Jerry Hillard, were shot and killed in Washington Park on the South Side.
Anthony Porter is now on Illinois' death row for the killings. He was 2 days away from receiving a lethal injection in September when doubts about his mental fitness raised by the Capital Litigation Division--a state-funded organization that coordinates legal efforts for the condemned--prompted the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a temporary stay. A hearing on that issue began Monday in Cook County Circuit Court. But Margaret Simon said Porter was not the killer. The gunman, she said, was her now-estranged husband, Alstory Simon, who was furious at Hillard for skimming proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs. "I started screaming," after the 1st shots were fired, she said. "(Alstory) grabbed me by the arm, and we ran out of the park." They ended up back at her apartment, where her nephew Walter Jackson was
living. In an independent affidavit signed in mid-January, Jackson recounted this middle-of-the-night arrival: "Alstory took me aside and told me he had `taken care of' Jerry and Marilyn." Margaret Simon's affidavit, signed and videotaped Friday, continues: "The next day, Alstory and I left the South Side of Chicago, eventually ending up in Milwaukee. We never returned." Walter Jackson told a similar tale. And so did Offie Lee Green, the mother of victim Marilyn Green. She repeated to me last week what for many years she'd told anyone who would listen--that on the night her daughter was murdered, she left home in the company of Alstory Simon and his wife. Further, the mother said, the Simons inexplicably disappeared the next day. By that time, police were pinning the crime on Anthony Porter, a local hoodlum whom she believes was not involved and who has steadfastly maintained his innocence for more than 16 years. The case against Porter was built on the testimony of William Taylor, who told authorities he was in the park that night and had seen Porter fire the fatal shots. But as I reported last week, Taylor recanted his testimony in a Dec. 14 affidavit. He said he did not see Porter with a gun and did not see who shot the victims, but that police had coerced his testimony. A 2nd witness who placed Porter at the scene with a gun has since died.
Efforts to reach Alstory Simon for comment Monday were unsuccessful, but he recently denied any knowledge of the Green-Hillard murders in a conversation with the Northwestern investigative team. Margaret Simon said she has been separated for 6 years from Alstory
Simon--who served time in prison for armed robbery 20 years ago--but hasn't come forward because she still fears him. She is 48 years old, has 13 grandchildren and is in failing health, she said. Now what? The case against Anthony Porter is in tatters, and the issue of his possible innocence has overtaken the issue of his possible mental retardation. A spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said prosecutors are eager to review the affidavits of Simon, Jackson and Taylor, which they will likely obtain Tuesday. If they don't reopen the
case, it's a safe bet someone else will.
Feb. 3, 1999---
the "serious nature" of new information dug up by Northwestern University
journalism students that could exonerate death row inmate Anthony Porter,
Cook County prosecutors filed an emergency motion Tuesday to delay hearings
into whether Porter is mentally fit to die.
Porter, 44, was convicted of killing Marilyn Green, 19, and her fiance, Jerry Hillard, 18, in Washington Park on Chicago's South Side on Aug. 15, 1982. Last September, 2 days before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Illinois Supreme Court put off the execution amid
questions about his mental competency. On Tuesday, Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Gainer Jr. met for three hours with NU journalism professor David Protess and five students to discuss the case. The students, led by Protess, revisited witnesses originally interviewed by authorities and also sought out others. The effort produced signed affidavits from 4 people and 1 videotaped statement that appear to undercut the case against Porter. The statements point to another man believed to be in Milwaukee. "These affidavits include recantations of testimony at trial as well as evidence that points to another person as having perpetrated these crimes," prosecutors wrote in their emergency motion. "The People believe
that theses claims of innocence should be investigated before the fitness hearing proceeds." Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Bilandic signed an order granting a 90-day extension for the mental fitness hearing. "We're taking it very seriously," Gainer said. "I think we need to take a timeout here and examine these new allegations." Porter's defense lawyer, Daniel Sanders, said he expects to file a motion claiming his client's innocence by week's end. Among those interviewed by the students were the state's key witness, William Taylor, who said he was "threatened, harassed and intimidated into naming Anthony Porter" by Chicago police--a charge police spokesman Pat Camden questioned. The students also questioned Margaret Simon, who said, on videotape and in an affidavit, that she was present when her now-estranged husband had an argument with Hillard about a drug debt before pulling out a revolver and killing the couple.
for both: Chicago Tribune)Feb. 5, 1999---
man who spent more than 16 years on death row for a double slaying has been
freed based on evidence 1st developed by a Northwestern University journalism
professor and a group of his students. Chicago Judge Thomas Fitzgerald
ordered Anthony Porter freed on his own
recognizance as the investigation continues. Porter cried when the judge issued his decision today. Earlier this week, professor David Protess and his students released a videotape confession by a Milwaukee man exonerating Porter of the 1982 murders of 19-year-old Marilyn Green and her 18-year-old fiance, Jerry Hillard, on the city's South Side. In his confession, Alstory Simon said he shot the victims. On the tape, Simon says, "I felt that my life was being threatened and before I knew anything...I just pulled it (the gun) up and started shooting." The confession was turned over to prosecutors on Wednesday. First Deputy Assistant State's Attorney David Erickson said prosecutors have been investigating since they received the confession and in light of information developed this week, seeking Porter's release was the
"appropriate" thing to do. He said another hearing will be held within 2 weeks to resolve the
case. Erickson said he has been assured by Simon's attorney that Simon will not flee while the investigation continues. Porter's attorney, Daniel Sanders, said he was surprised things have moved so quickly. Porter's mother, Clara, said, "I'm just so happy I don't know what to do. I feel good all over and I thank God for it." If Porter is cleared, he will become the 10th death row prisoner exonerated since Illinois reinstituted the death penalty in 1977. The
state has executed 11 inmates, with the next scheduled execution set for March 17. In editorials today, both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune called for a moratorium on the death penalty until questions on how it is applied can be resolved. Gov. George Ryan, however, said he's not ready to take such action, although he is open to a review.
United Press International)
Death Row review
again, serious questions have been raised about the guilt of a death row
inmate. Surely, enough questions have been raised to persuade the state
Supreme Court to impose a moratorium on executions until there is more assurance
that the process is fair and free of mistakes. The latest case involves
Anthony Porter, convicted of fatally shooting 2 people in Washington Park
in 1982. Porter was scheduled to die last fall, but because of questions
about his IQ and mental fitness, the execution was delayed. In the
interim, Northwestern University Professor David Protess and his investigative
journalism students found evidence that Porter did not commit the murders.
They have given authorities a videotaped confession from a Milwaukee man
who said he did the killings in a drug dispute. They also turned over
an affidavit from a witness who said he did not see the shootings but named
Porter as the shooter after police questioned him for 15 hours.
We support the death penalty in a system that affords the accused a fair trial resulting in a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977, Illinois has had a near-record number of wrongful death penalty convictions, with 9 death
row inmates already exonerated. Porter could be the 10th. If the high court will not impose a moratorium on executions, perhaps Gov. Ryan or Attorney General Jim Ryan should order a review of all death row cases to make sure there are no other questionable cases.
(source: Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times)
ANOTHER NEAR-MISS ON DEATH ROW
If Anthony Porter had a high IQ, he'd be dead now.
September, just 2 days before he was to be executed, the Illinois Supreme
Court ordered a mental competency test to determine if Porter could understand
the charges against him and why he faced the death penalty. His lawyer
produced tests indicating Porter's IQ is 51, or
about half the normal score of 100. While both sides were preparing for the competency hearings, an astonishing fact emerged: Most likely, Porter is completely innocent in the 1982 double murder that sent him to death row. So, a few months ago, Illinois nearly claimed the record for executing the lowest-IQ convict in the history of the U.S.--and an innocent man at
Now it seems Illinois is about to reaffirm its standing as the state with the second-highest number of wrongful death sentences, after Florida. If Porter's conviction is overturned, he'll be the 10th such case in Illinois since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.
This must frighten anyone, regardless of whether they support or oppose the death penalty. Something has gone terribly, chillingly wrong here, and innocent people have almost paid with their lives.
The near-execution of Anthony Porter is more compelling evidence that Gov. George Ryan and Senate President James "Pate" Philip ought to drop their opposition to a moratorium on executions until the state's methods for applying this irrevocable sentence are reconsidered.
Two years ago, the American Bar Association, which does not oppose the death penalty on principle, called for a national moratorium on its use.
But in response to public clamor for tough-on-crime measures, Congress and many states instead have moved to expedite executions and short-circuit appeals.
Aspects of Porter's ordeal through the justice system resemble those of Rolando Cruz and the Ford Heights Four, all minority defendants who lived on the social and economic fringes of society.
Porter's 1st lawyer didn't mount much of a defense against a case built on the testimony of one witness. That witness now has recanted his confession and claims to have been manhandled by police interrogators seeking a quick solution.
In the past few days, a Milwaukee man implicated himself in the 1982 murders.
Why didn't the police or the defense lawyers do a better investigation? Was the only witness intimidated by policing into lying so Porter could be framed? How could this case come so horrifyingly close to the point that an innocent man would be put to death?
Does Illinois want to answer these questions before an innocent person dies, or after that happens?
Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
In Springfield, Gov. George
Ryan remains opposed to temporarily halting executions in Illinois, despite
yet another case in which new evidence suggests an innocent man spent years
on death row.
"I know people use these reversals as an argument for a moratorium or why the death penalty should be revised, but an argument can also be made that the system is working as designed," Dave Urbanek, spokesman for the Republican governor, said Friday.
The state's long appeals process gave a Northwestern University journalism class time to uncover evidence of the death row inmate's innocence, Urbanek said. "The media is part of the system," he added.
Illinois in recent years has seen nine men released from death row.
A 10th, Anthony Porter, was sent home on bond Friday after another man confessed to the 1982 murders for which Porter was convicted.
While some question the constitutionality of a moratorium imposed by lawmakers or the governor, death penalty critics say these cases suggest Illinois should halt executions and review why so many innocent people have been sentenced to death.
"I think we're facing an uphill battle, but we're getting closer with each revelation of truth," said Rep. Coy Pugh, a Chicago Democrat sponsoring a moratorium.
Rep. James Durkin, R-Westchester, argued the legislature could repeal the death penalty completely but not halt executions. Such a moratorium, or one imposed by the governor, would improperly interfere with the judicial branch's power to impose the death penalty and set execution dates, he said.
Ryan would support a review of the death penalty process but not a moratorium, Urbanek said.
Durkin said lawmakers would be better off focusing on why innocent people have been sentenced to die. He said a key part of the problem may be that too many defense attorneys lack the training and experience to handle capital cases.
One scholar, however, said he doubts legislation imposing a moratorium would be unconstitutional.
Judges play a role in executions, said University of Illinois law professor James Pfander, but "the legislature still ultimately has the decision to make about whether it wants to impose the death penalty as one in an array of punishments."
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The man whose videotaped
confession to 2 killings freed another man from death row last week has
surrendered to police.
Alstory Simon, 48, was formally charged Sunday with the 1982 killings of 2 teenagers. His estranged wife, Inez Jackson, also surrendered to Chicago police and was charged with obstruction of justice for keeping her husband's role in the slayings a secret, authorities said.
They both were scheduled to appear in bond court today.
Anthony Porter, now 43, was freed Friday from Cook County Jail after 17 years behind bars. Last September, he was within 2 days of execution for the killings when the Illinois Supreme Court decided to review his case because of his low IQ.
Witnesses in the case against Porter have now allegedly recanted their testimony.
Simon, of Milwaukee, plans to plead innocent to the charges, said his lawyer, Jack Rimland.
In a telephone interview with WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, Rimland said Simon's
videotaped comments "indicated he was acting in self-defense, based on my viewing of it."
Police say Simon confessed Wednesday to the fatal shootings of Jerry Hillard, 18, and Marilyn Green, 19, while being questioned on videotape by Chicago private investigator Paul Ciolino.
Ciolino worked on the case with journalism students from Northwestern University, who also say they obtained a confession in a previously videotaped interview.
Porter is the 10th inmate freed from death row in Illinois since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.
The charges against Porter will not be dismissed until prosecutors review the videotapes of Simon and other evidence, said Asst. State's Atty.Thomas Gainer.
(source: Chicago Tribune)ILLINOIS:
(source: Chicago Tribune)ILLINOIS:
Porter, a convicted murderer,
was freed from an Illinois prison Saturday.
A professor and students from a Northwestern University investigative journalism class had collected evidence indicating that he was innocent.
They found another man who admitted on videotape that he was the killer.
That man has been arrested.
In September, Porter's execution was stayed just 48 hours before it was due to be carried out. The Illinois Supreme Court halted the proceedings because of questions about his mental fitness. His IQ is 51.
But the investigative journalism students did not concentrate on the impropriety of executing a mentally deficient killer. Rather, they focused on the question of his alleged guilt. They tracked down and re-interviewed witnesses. One eyewitness recanted his testimony against Porter, saying that investigators had pressured him into implicating the man.
The students found a woman who pointed to her ex-husband as the killer.
Then a private investigator interviewed the ex-husband, who made a videotaped statement claiming he killed in self-defense.
If the videotaped statement holds up, Porter would become the 10th death-row inmate to be exonerated in Illinois since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. A previous Northwestern University investigative journalism class was responsible for freeing 4 of the 10 in one case in
1996. Nationwide, 76 people have been released from death row after evidence turned up showing that they had been wrongly accused. (None of the cases was in Nebraska.)
For proponents of the death penalty, those statistics have to be deeply troubling. When the penalty is death, there is no margin for error. Any possibility of innocence should be pursued - not solely by a defense attorney but by investigators and prosecutors, too. Any hint of improper
pressure on witnesses to bring about a conviction and death sentence should be wrung out of the system. When a human life is at stake, ironclad certainty must be the rule.
Improper pressure on witnesses corrupts the system. When such behavior comes to light, capital punishment takes a hit that is difficult for its advocates to counter. Each time an innocent person is discovered on death row, capital punishment comes that much closer to being repealed - brought down because of mistakes by some of the very people who support the death penalty.
Porter, 43, spent 17 years on death row for a crime that another man now admits. Porter was within hours of having his life taken by the state. He was forced to ride the rollercoaster of trials and appeals for no good reason.
How does a society make up for 17 years taken out of the prime of a man's life? It doesn't. It can't. But what happened in Illinois can serve as a warning to a justice system that wields the power of life and death: Mistakes must not happen. Conscientious people must see to it.
Cook County State's Attorney
Richard Devine says he's adding steps to the review system his office uses
in capital cases.
The announcement comes less than a week after former death row inmate Anthony Porter was released from prison after another man confessed to the crimes for which Porter was convicted.
Porter is the 10th condemned prisoner to have been released since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
Speaking to the North Suburban Bar Association today in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Devine said trial supervisors and deputy supervisors have begun "more intensive personal participation" before charges are even approved in potential death penalty cases.
When a request for capital punishment is made, Devine and other top officials in his office will meet with trial assistants to identify unresolved questions in the case.
In cases where a defendant claims innocence, the prosecutor's office is expanding its current review of post-conviction petitions and hearings.
Lastly, after a capital trial, Devine said he plans to conduct a comprehensive, personal review of the case. The review would come after a final appeal by the defendant but before the defendant makes a petition for clemency from the governor.
Noting that Cook County handles the majority of the state's capital cases, Devine said, "We want our office's review system to be as full, fair and complete as possible at every stage, from approval of charges, to trial, through the appellate process and through post-conviction
As state legislators and
the Illinois Supreme Court struggle to determine a course of action following
the release of Anthony Porter--the 10th death row inmate to go free--Cook
County State's Atty.
Richard Devine on Tuesday issued a 4-point program designed to heighten scrutiny of capital prosecutions.
Defense lawyers and death penalty opponents said the changes are a positive step, but they contend that serious efforts are needed by law enforcement authorities to implement them in a fashion that would make a difference and that more should be done.
In an address to the North Suburban Bar Association in Wilmette, Devine promised to dispatch supervisory attorneys to police stations to oversee attorneys in the felony review unit. The supervisors will personally review evidence, question witnesses and take confessions in all cases in which the death penalty could be sought, he said.
In addition, he said he personally would review, along with other top lawyers in his office, all potential capital cases before the ultimate punishment would be sought. On each case, a veteran prosecutor will be appointed to review the file and act as "devil's advocate" to ensure
that the cases merit such action, he said.
Further, Devine said his office would not use procedural grounds to fight post-conviction petitions in which "bona fide claims of innocence" are raised and would instead agree to hearings on the evidence.
Finally, Devine said his office would make a "comprehensive, personal review of evidence and legal proceedings in all death penalty cases after all appeals have been exhausted and before a petition of clemency is filed with the governor."
"I don't want to be a state's attorney who, 10 or 15 years from now, people will say I didn't do everything humanly possible on every capital case," Devine said in an interview. He was the top deputy under then-State's Atty. Richard Daley when Porter was convicted.
Cook County Public Defender Rita Fry, whose assistants defend the majority of death cases, hailed Devine's remarks but remained skeptical.
"The basic reality is the state's attorney is the one who seeks the death penalty," she said. "If he's putting in a hyper-felony review and a special review committee, that is well and good, but he's got to understand that he is the one requesting death.
"If he is willing to say they are going to do things differently, wonderful, but the proof is in the pudding."
In his address to the bar group at the Wilmette Park District Golf Club, Devine said, "In the name of the people, our office must do justice not only for victims, with vigorous prosecution of crime, but for defendants, with a review process that is equally vigorous."
About the same time Tuesday, Porter's attorneys appeared in court to file a petition seeking a hearing to obtain a finding of their client's innocence and obtain dismissal of his convictions for the 1982 murders of Marilyn Green, 19, and Jerry Hillard, 18. Another man, Alstory Simon,
has implicated himself.
Defense attorney Daniel Sanders said he plans to seek funds from the Illinois Court of Claims, which can provide a lump sum of about $140,000 to those who have been wrongly imprisoned.
Meanwhile, in Springfield, leaders of all 3 branches of government said they believe the situation bears discussion by somebody.
The question is: "Who?"
On Tuesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said he believes nothing will happen unless Gov. George Ryan calls a summit meeting to discuss it. At the same time, a spokesman for Ryan said the governor would be pleased to take part in such a meeting but he's unlikely to convene it himself.
A vocal minority of lawmakers continues to agitate for the state to put a hold on executions.
Also on Tuesday, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison issued a statement strongly urging the legislative leaders and the governor to meet to "address the problems presented by our present death penalty law" and to consider the idea of a reprieve for Death Row inmates.
"With the next execution scheduled for March, there is no time to delay,"
Harrison said in the statement.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Freeman has ordered research into all 10 exonerations to see what went wrong in those cases--although he already has said he doesn't believe the justices have the authority to impose a temporary moratorium on executions.
Among lawmakers calling for a temporary halt is state Rep. Coy Pugh (D-Chicago), who has filed a bill that would impose a one-year moratorium on all executions while an exhaustive study is conducted on the cases of all inmates on death row. On Wednesday, Pugh is expected to call for creation of a commission jointly appointed by the House and Senate to
conduct that review.
Some lawmakers say they are deeply troubled by the development in Porter's case and its implications for the criminal justice system that put him behind bars.
But even though other public officials have echoed their sentiments, very few have stepped forward and called for change. Many privately acknowledge they don't wish to appear soft on crime.
Devine said that the increased scrutiny by lawyers in the felony review division--who approve filing of all felony charges--requires on-site involvement by supervisors rather than a paperwork review at a later date as has been done in the past.
He said he would personally participate in the decision to seek the death penalty and promised that the lawyers assigned to be "devil's advocates" would take their assignment seriously because "their future is at stake."
Devine said the office seeks the death penalty in about 20 to 25 cases annually. Though he did not have specifics on the number of refusals, he said he is aware of "about 10 or so" cases in the past several weeks in which the office decided against seeking the death penalty.
Devine conceded that the change in approach to post-conviction claims will be "a judgment call. It has to be a bona fide claim of innocence, not somebody who (is caught) with a gun in his hand or 12 knives."
Tim Lohraff, a lawyer for condemned inmate Aaron Patterson, called on Devine to do even more, including rejecting the death penalty in certain instances, abandoning the use of jailhouse informants in capital cases, not seeking the death penalty when confessions are the only evidence and not using unsigned confessions.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
For years, Illinois' top
politicians didn't worry about their position on the death penalty: They
were tough on crime and favored executions.
That changed following last week's release of Anthony Porter. One by one, officials said they wanted to review the system to make sure an innocent person is not put to death, though they did not offer concrete ideas about how to go about it and suggested that someone else had to take the lead.
But on Wednesday, Gov. George Ryan acknowledged that the ultimate power to stop executions lies in his office and said he would convene a meeting to discuss reforms in the review process for Death Row inmates.
"I think there's got to be some kind of another check put into place. I'm just not sure yet what it is," he said.
Ryan's acknowledgment coincided with a change of heart from Mayor Richard Daley, who said that while he remains a supporter of the death penalty, he now believes the cases of all condemned inmates should be reviewed before their executions are carried out.
Both men stopped short of calling for an overhaul of the system, but their comments appear to reflect that two of the state's most accomplished politicians sense a change in the political landscape.
Last week, Ryan's spokesman said that Porter's case proved that the legal system worked, even though the facts that freed the inmate were uncovered by a group of journalism students and a private investigator. On Wednesday, the governor disagreed.
"I'm not sure the system worked," Ryan said. "In the end, it comes down to me, and I'm the guy who has to look at the facts and figures" in death penalty cases.
Ryan said he has been in discussions about calling a high-powered conference of top officials in the state's judicial, legislative and executive branches.
"I don't have a problem calling a meeting, but I want to have the right people at the meeting," he said.
Porter, who last year came within 48 hours of execution and was released from prison last week, is the 10th person freed from death row since capital punishment was reinstated in Illinois in 1977.
His case has prompted calls for a yearlong moratorium on executions to allow for further study of the issue.
Ryan's proposal doesn't go so far. Nor do the reforms proposed Wednesday by Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan, who opposes a moratorium but wants to increase funding for appeals by death row inmates.
But the actions by 2 law-and-order conservative Republicans add up to a political acknowledgment that the public's confidence in the death penalty has been shaken.
"I think everybody understands what's at stake here," the governor said.
"An innocent man was about to die, and thank God he didn't. And now we want to make sure that scenario doesn't reappear and come back and haunt us in the future."
Porter's brush with state-sanctioned death may give momentum to those seeking a death-penalty moratorium. But even the term "moratorium" has meant different things to different people.
Ryan's administration has opposed a moratorium, saying it would prevent anyone convicted of 1st-degree murder during the review period from getting a death sentence. But supporters said it meant only that no executions would be carried out during that time.
Besides allowing a review of existing cases, however, a moratorium would buy death-penalty opponents time to try to sway public opinion.
"It allows us to think. It allows us to talk about this issue. It allows the public to understand what it means when...we are willing to take away absolutely every right a human being has," said Emile Schepers, program director of the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights.
Schepers was part of a protest outside Daley's office on Wednesday asking the mayor to support a moratorium and to apologize for his role as Cook County state's attorney when Porter was convicted.
"Society can apologize....Personally, no," Daley told reporters. And the mayor, a supporter of capital punishment, said that it was up to Ryan to call for a death-penalty moratorium.
But with Daley apparently feeling some pressure in the midst of a re-election campaign, the mayor's press office later issued a statement saying he backed a moratorium on executions to allow for an extensive review of each case.
Daley's stance is mostly symbolic--he no longer has anything to do with the criminal justice system--but IT is a dramatic change for a former county prosecutor who has been vocal in his support for the death penalty.
In addition, 16 members of the City Council on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions in Illinois "until such time as the procedure leading up to a death sentence is studied, reviewed and revised to prevent future wrongful convictions" and until the
appellate process is similarly reviewed.
"I don't think a civilized society can execute people without being sure" of their guilt, said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th), a lawyer and one of the resolution's primary sponsors. "We are making too many mistakes."
But the governor appears uninterested in a blanket moratorium.
One source close to Ryan indicated that an intensive case-by-case review would be sufficient and that if there was some question of innocence, a temporary stay could be issued.
"It doesn't matter how bad the crime is, the question is whether they're guilty or not," Ryan said.
"I still support the death penalty, and there's no question it ought to be applied fairly and accurately and I'm willing to work with anyone to ensure that process goes on. We're still looking at the best way to do that," he said.
Atty. Gen. Ryan, meanwhile, said he would push for 4 new safeguards that would help prevent near-misses such as Porter's.
Starting immediately, Ryan said his office will conduct an expanded review of each capital case before requesting execution dates from the Illinois Supreme Court. Attorneys for the defendant as well as prosecutors would be included in that review, which would provide one
last opportunity to air claims of innocence.
He also said that he would push for legislation that would give death row inmates additional opportunities to prove their innocence, including a multimillion-dollar increase in funding to provide legal and investigative help for condemned prisoners and a separate review board
to hear clemency petitions in capital cases.
The special panel would have more powers than the current Prisoner Review Board to order additional investigations or subpoenas if it determined a need for further review.
"It's a safety net to expand the safeguards that would be there at the 11th hour to pursue any claims of actual innocence," said Jim Ryan, who as DuPage County state's attorney oversaw the prosecution of Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, who were both condemned to death and later freed.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
In Springfield, Gov. George
Ryan said Friday he is not interested in holding a summit of state officials
to discuss the idea of temporarily halting executions in Illinois.
A growing number of officials and death-penalty critics want a moratorium on executions to allow time for a review of why 10 apparently innocent men have been sent to death row and later cleared.
Ryan called the situation "scary" but said he does not plan to convene a summit.
"I don't see a need for a knee-jerk reaction at this point," the Republican governor said. "When they talk about a moratorium and they talk about a summit, I'm not prepared to do any of those things at this point."
He promised to review each new death penalty case carefully and, if necessary, meet with judges, police or anybody with useful information about whether an execution should be halted.
"I think we can do this case by case," Ryan said.
The state's next execution -- of Andrew Kokoraleis, convicted of a ritualistic mutilation and murder in DuPage County -- is set for March 17.
Ryan spokesman Dave Urbanek said the governor is still talking informally to various officials, including the attorney general, about problems with Illinois' death penalty system.
But Ryan said he does not know what good would come of a general meeting of officials such as House Speaker Michael Madigan or state Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman.
"I'm not sure what Madigan and those people do at a meeting," Ryan said. "The decision ultimately is mine."
The latest call for a moratorium began last week, when Anthony Porter was sent home after coming within 2 days of being executed for a 1982 double murder. Another man has now confessed to the slayings. Ryan said Friday he has inquired about speeding up state payments that Porter might be owed for wrongful imprisonment. But the Cook County state's attorney has asked him to drop the effort until Porter's legal status is cleared up, Ryan said.
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
In Springfield. State
Rep. Tom Ryder, R-Jerseyville, wants to remove a state requirement that doctors
participate in executions of death row prisoners.
"Doctors take an oath to heal, not to end life," Ryder said. "The members of the medical profession have a problem with being mandated to assist in executions."
Ryder, a member of House Republican leadership, has sponsored similar legislation before, but he said he is a strong death penalty supporter.
"The problem is that for physicians to participate in this procedure is unethical," said Dr. Richard Geline, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, which supports the legislation. "Our job is to heal and to protect."
Attorney General Jim Ryan remains opposed to removing doctors from the executions, according to Jerry Owens, a spokesman for Ryan. "It changes the process if you don't have a physician there," Owens said. "We feel we have to keep the physician involved for constitutional protection."
If Ryder's bill became law, Owens said the state could be open to litigation.
Ryder's proposal comes amidst the current controversy over how Illinois administers its death penalty, stemming from the release of Anthony Porter, a Chicago man who spent 16 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.
Porter became the 10th man freed from death row in Illinois since the state reinstated the death penalty in the late 1970s. 11 have been executed.
Several anti-death penalty groups have demanded that Illinois halt executions until the state reviews the current system. The next scheduled execution is in March.
"I would hope that this would be included in any type of review (of the death penalty statute)," Ryder said.
The Republican lawmaker said his bill could get more attention by the Legislature because of Porter's release.
"Maybe we could do better (legislatively) with this than we have in the past," Ryder said.
Current law requires a doctor to oversee the medical procedures involved during an execution. The doctors are chosen confidentially at the "total discretion" of the Illinois Department of Corrections director, according to Brian Fairchild, an agency spokesman. He said the agency has not taken a position on Ryder's current bill.
Illinois executes its prisoners by lethal injection. 33 types of drugs are injected intravenously.
The first drug administered is a fast acting barbiturate. Then, a paralytic pancuronium bromide is injected to stop respiration, followed by potassium chloride, which stops the beating of the heart.
After injections, a coroner certifies the prisoner's death and a doctor pronounces time of death.
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
#403 - Written 14 February 1999 AN "IMPARTIAL" KILLING
copyright 1999 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine."
--Alexander Pope (1688-1714), _The Rape
of the Lock_ (1712)
The dog days of August, 1982 drew several people to the pools in Chicago's Washington Park, strangers who would meet and be thereafter linked for life.
Among them, Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard, who would be shot to death,
after being robbed. Also, Henry Williams and William Taylor, 2 men
who would give incriminating statements and testify against a man named Anthony
Porter, who would be arrested based on these statements, and on the testimony
of a cop named Anthony Liance, who swore Porter was the man he stopped, frisked,
and released at the crime scene shortly after the killings, as
the man was unarmed.
Porter would be tried by a jury with at least one member who attended church with the mother of a victim (who told her fellows on the panel that deliberations wasn't necessary, "as far as she was concerned, they could vote guilty right then"). This jury would convict of two counts of murder, two counts of armed robbery and unlawful restraint against witness Henry Williams, and two counts of unlawful weapons use. Porter would be sentenced to 30 years for the robbery and unlawful restraint charges, and to death.
He filed appeals to every court that he could, and was rejected by every one.
When Porter complained of the juror, the Illinois Supreme Court found such
a relationship was not prejudicial, and "mere suspicion of bias or prejudice"
was "not sufficient" to reverse
the verdict [from _State v. Porter_, 111 Ill. 2nd 386, 405 (1986)]. The Court majority neatly affirmed Porter's "convictions and sentences" thusly:
"The clerk of this court is directed to enter an order setting Wednesday, May 21, 1986 on which the sentence of death, entered in the circuit court of Cook County, is to be carried out (pp. 406-7)."
After several stays, Porter came within 2 days of death when the court granted a stay to examine his mental competency, occasioned by his low I.Q.
But, the issue wasn't his incompetence but his innocence, which was determined
not by his defense lawyers, not by the state or federal judiciary, certainly
not by the prosecutors, but by
several young people, students of Northwestern University's journalism class. They solved the case in 4 months!
After almost 17 years on Death Row, Porter walked away from the executioner, after another man explained on tape how he killed the two swimmers in a drug deal gone sour. Late last December one of the witnesses, Taylor, told N.U. students that the cops "threatened, harassed and intimidated" him into testifying, and reiterated his original statement to cops on the crime scene that he didn't see Porter kill anyone.
Ah, what of the actual killer?
The cops interviewed him the day after the killings, and tried to get him
and his wife (who witnessed) to give testimony against the guy they had
already fingered--Anthony Porter.
Alstory Simon sat and listened as they tried to convince him Porter killed two people that he killed, and looked at mug shots of their key suspect, and promptly fled the state.
Porter's appeal, opposed by the then-State's Attorney (now Chicago Mayor)
Richard Daley, was little more than an empty formality. Had the D.A.,
State's Attorney, County judge R.L.
Sklovowski, Illinois Supreme Court, or Chicago Police had their way, Porter would've been dead today--years before his innocence was proven.
But Anthony Porter, like most on Death Row, was poor, and that is the quality of legal representation he got--poor. That factor, joined with police passion to convince witnesses they had the right guy, and the blind ambition of prosecutors and judges to use Porter like a political stepping stone, all but insured his condemnation to Death Row, and his remaining there.
He got exactly the same kind of "fair trial" that hundreds get every day, and will get tomorrow. And the same "appeal."
The system doesn't work. It wasn't designed to. It was designed
to look like it does. It sucked almost 17 years of LIFE from an innocent
man, whose alibi was treated like the cruel,
cold, heartless joke of a Constitution. That is, glanced at, spoken of, and ultimately ignored.
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