State’s Attorney Alvarez Announces Acquittal of Man from Murder Case Following Conviction Integrity Review
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the dismissal of murder and voluntary manslaughter charges against a man who was wrongfully convicted for the 1982 murder case following the intensive re-investigations of the case, led by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
Alstory Simon, 62, has pled guilty to the 1982 murder case of a young couple and was sentenced to 37-year imprisonment in 1999. Wrongful convictions have apparently stemmed from coerced confessions by the defendant, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claimed.
Marilyn Green, 19, and Jerry Hillard, 18, was shot to death in the early morning hours on August 15, 1982, at the Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago. An eyewitness, William Taylor, who happened to be swimming in the park pool during the time of the incident, was interviewed by the police. His testimony varied from not having seen the person who committed the crime, to have seen Anthony Porter run by right after shots were fired, and to finally claiming he has seen Porter shoot the victims, all within a day’s worth of questioning.
Anthony Porter, 59, who was initially convicted of the 1982 murder case and was sentenced to death, was released from prison in 1999, following the Medill Innocence Project’s investigation. The team who worked on Porter’s case was composed of David Protess – a journalism professor, a team of young journalism students, and Paul Ciolino – a private investigator who was employed by the journalists.
The investigations by the Innocence Project led to the conviction of Simon, in which Ciolino played a massive part in, after obtaining a taped confession of Simon for the homicide of the young couple. Simon stated in his confession that he had killed Hillard in self-defense, and had shot Green in the accident. Moreover, the mother of the young lady accused Simon as the murderer after hearing the altercation over drug money between Hillard and Simon. The mother of Green also claimed that Simon and his wife, Inez Jackson, were alleged with the victims prior to the incident.
Defense investigators later reported that despite being initially interviewed, Simon and Jackson were only asked if they identified Porter or if they had vital information about the case, to which they replied that they had not been in the area that day.
Simon has spent over 15 years imprisoned for the murder of the young couple, until the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez agreed to review the case in October of 2013, and has allowed the Conviction Integrity Unit to conduct an extensive re-investigation on the 1982 murder case.
“This case has undoubtedly been the most complicated and most challenging re-investigation that we have undertaken, but justice compels that I take action today,” State’s Attorney Alvarez said.
The intensive review and re-investigation of the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office raised severe questions regarding the integrity and cohesion of the Innocence Project’s re-investigation. Also, they had ethical concerns regarding the legal representation of Simon during the trial.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stated in a news conference saying, “This investigation by David Protess and his team 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.”
The State’s Attorney further claims that Simon has been falsely accused, due to the corrupt tactics employed by the journalism team and the private investigator. Moreover, Protess was said to have retired from Northwestern University in 2011, after being accused of doctoring emails and concealed documents from prosecutors. Protess, along with his students, was also accused of ethical misconduct in the re-investigation of Anthony McKinney’s murder conviction.
“At the end of the day and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction,” State’s Attorney Alvarez said.
After two years of re-investigation, and interviewing over 100 individuals and revisiting tons of police reports, court transcripts and other potential information, the conviction and sentence of Alstory Simon was dismissed in court in the morning of October 30, 2014, during a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. The acquittal of Simon brings to 10 the total number of convictions that the Conviction Integrity Unit of Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has dismissed since its launch.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit continues to bring justice through intensive re-investigation of wrongful convictions, as they tackle the over 300 requests for review of a sentence, which continually increased since the beginning of the initiative in 2012.
Updated: August 6, 2020