CHICAGO – A former death row inmate whose wrongful murder conviction helped bring about the end of Illinois’ death penalty said life has recently been more difficult with renewed questions about his innocence.
Anthony Porter spent 16 years on death row for the 1982 killings of two people, but the confession of another man, Alstory Simon, led to Porter’s release in 1998 just days before his scheduled execution. Then last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said a letter from Simon’s attorneys outlined reasons that warranted another look at the circumstances surrounding Simon’s confession and conviction.
Porter told the Chicago Sun-Times he’s angry about the decision to re-examine the case. He said he thinks it is a conspiracy to ruin his reputation and that of former Gov. George Ryan, who pardoned Porter, and to discredit the anti-death penalty movement.
“They’re trying to destroy me and Gov. Ryan at the same time,” Porter told the newspaper for a story published Sunday.
Cook County state’s attorney spokeswoman Sally Daly declined to comment Sunday.
Porter said the situation has caused him illness and stress and that he’s an innocent man. He also told the newspaper that he was allegedly tortured by police.
“They keep on bringing the same old stuff up,” he said. “... I’m suffering. I’m tired.”
Porter’s case helped lead Ryan to halt all executions in Illinois; He declared a moratorium on executions in 2003 and cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.
Earlier this month, the Sun-Times reported that City of Chicago attorneys believed that prosecutors’ decision to release Porter and charge Simon was “political,” according to a 2001 memo the newspaper obtained. The memo was written as the city was deciding whether to settle or fight a lawsuit brought by Porter.
Porter received more than $145,000 in restitution from Illinois in 2000. But five years later, a jury rejected his claim for $24 million in a lawsuit alleging Chicago police conspired to wrongfully charge him in the slayings.
Simon pleaded guilty and is serving a 37-year sentence. But he later recanted his confession, alleging he was coerced into making it by a private investigator who promised Simon he would get an early release and a share of the profits from book and movie deals.