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The Exonerated: Anthony Porter

Anthony Porter
Anthony Porter

Marilyn Green and her fiancé, Terry Hilliard, were gunned down in Chicago, Illinois, at the Washington Park swimming pool on the south side of the city. They were only teenagers at the time of their death.

Twenty-seven-year-old reputed gang member Anthony Porter was stopped by police as he was leaving the park that day. The police did not see anything suspicious so they let him go. Porter was charged with the crime two days later after police obtained witness testimony from another man who was also at the park that day. William Taylor was questioned at the scene and initially told police that he didn’t see who committed the crime. Taylor was brought into the station and, after seventeen hours of questioning, he told a different story. Taylor’s final statement said he saw Porter shoot the two victims. In this case, police obtained inaccurate information from a witness after a lengthy interrogation.

Anthony Porter was convicted and sentenced to death. He would never waiver on his claims of innocence. The testimony given by William Taylor held up in every appeal. Porter was out of options. His lawyer made one last argument that Porter did not have the mental capacity to understand his punishment of death. He argued that Porter had a low IQ and was considered mildly retarded. This argument got the attention of the Chicago Tribune and Cardinal George. The Tribune ran an editorial and Cardinal George sent a letter to the Illinois Governor to warn against “tarnishing the good name of Illinois.” Just 50 hours before Porter was due to be executed, the courts granted a stay of execution.

Professor David Protess and a group of journalism students from Northwestern University, along with the volunteer help of private investigator Paul Ciolino, decided to look into the case. This small group of individuals was able to save a life and see to it that justice was served.

In a few weeks time, this volunteer group obtained a signed affidavit and videotaped statement from a woman named Inez Jackson. Jackson admitted that her husband, Alstory Simon, had committed the murders. In February 1999, Ciolino obtained a videotaped confession from Simon. Simon pled guilty in September 1999, and was sentenced to 37 years in prison.

Anthony Porter became the 76th death row inmate to be exonerated in the United States. This is unacceptable. How many others were put to death that didn’t have the support Porter did? Thankfully for Porter, many people came together to fight for his freedom. Others are not so fortunate. It is important to remember that this entire ordeal stemmed from a seventeen-hour interrogation of a witness leading to false information.