From the Chicago Tribune:
"The bottom line is the investigation conducted by Protess and private investigator Ciolino as well as the subsequent legal representation of Mr. Simon were so flawed that it's clear the constitutional rights of Mr. Simon were not scrupulously protected as our law requires," said Alvarez, who indicated she would have considered obstruction of justice or witness intimidation charges if the statute of limitations hadn't run out.”
After he was released, Simon and his attorneys filed a $40 million federal lawsuit against Ciolino, Protess, and Northwestern, claiming that Simon had been framed. They alleged a pattern of misconduct by Protess at Northwestern.
The possibility that Porter is an example of a wrongful exoneration poses an elemental question about wrongful conviction advocates and the media: Were they working together to pressure prosecutors and politicians to push for the exoneration of Porter?
More and more, it looks as if they were.
In Alstory Simon’s lawsuit against Northwestern, his attorneys cite this media pressure as a factor for the prosecutor in 1998, Dick Devine, to release Porter from prison and convict Simon.
In a 2013 letter to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez demanding that she re-investigate the case, Simon’s attorney wrote the following:
Unfortunately, a prior administration of the Cook County State’s Attorney [Dick Devine’s], acquiesced in a coordinated effort between Northwestern representatives and a local media outlet to pressure the CCSA into a hasty and regrettable rush to judgement.
In short, Simon’s attorneys argue, wrongful conviction activists had essentially intimidated prosecutors to do their bidding, a stunning intimidation of the prosecutor’s office.
With the Porter case falling apart under renewed scrutiny, what does it say about Governor Ryan’s decision to pardon Hobley and three other men in 2003?
It suggests this: The wrongful conviction movement had made deep inroads into the media, the prosecutor’s office, then the governor’s.
And it got worse, quickly.
After Hobley got out, federal investigators, seeing that a great travesty might have taken place, began to re-investigate the case. Many federal agents believed that prosecutors would re-indict Hobley. Those charges in 2008 were imminent, they believed.
But the Feds never did. The Feds moved away from indicting Hobley and instead focused on the long-sought indictment of former police commander Jon Burge. Hobley got a $7 million settlement. To indict Burge, federal prosecutors used statements Burge made in a civil lawsuit brought by attorneys for Hobley.
Whatever one’s beliefs are about the magnitude of misconduct by Burge and his men, the Hobley case seemed a bizarre one to use as the means to go after Burge. Hobley, after all, was convicted of a mass murder, exonerated with no new evidence by a governor who himself was about to go to prison on corruption charges.
One Federal agent who worked on the Hobley case was Jim Delorto. Here is what he said about the arson:
“The evidence in the Hobley arson case is so overwhelming and of such specific detail and volume that no jury in any court would not have found him guilty beyond any doubt. In my eight years as supervisor of the ATF federal bomb and arson task force, there has never been a clearer case of guilt. For the federal government not to have pursued this case, in which seven African Americans were burned to death, was unconscionable and unprecedented.”
The case against Burge proceeded. Federal prosecutors indicted Burge. The trial took shape.
Remarkably, the federal prosecutors never called Madison Hobley to the stand. They called Hobley’s sister to testify, but not Hobley himself.
Was this a tacit admission by the prosecutors that Hobley could not withstand cross examination by Burge’s attorneys? Would Burge’s attorneys show what the trial against Hobley and all the legal proceedings concluded: That he was guilty of setting the fire?
Burge was convicted, the Burge narrative drowning out the narrative, based on compelling evidence, that not only had a mass murderer, Madison Hobley, been freed, but had also been given a settlement of $6 million from the city.