- Seth Perlman/AP Photos
- Alstory Simon left prison a free man yesterday.
The page-one story in both the Tribune and Sun-Times Friday was the freeing of Alstory Simon, after State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez decided to dismiss his conviction. We can now ponder the complexities and ironies of an extraordinary legal saga—a double murder in a south-side park in 1982 that led to the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois while contributing hugely to the erosion of respect for Alvarez’s profession. Now we have not one convicted killer, Anthony Porter, exonerated, but two, Simon being the so-called “real” killer who confessed in 1999 as Porter went free.
I’ve watched skeptically the past few years as Simon’s cause was championed. The attorneys who took up his case had heretofore been identified with cops and prosecutors, not with prisoners doing life who claimed they’d been railroaded. The prosecutor, Alvarez, who seemed so receptive to their arguments, had reasons to loathe and mess with the legacy of Porter’s original champion, David Protess, who back in the day was a professor running the Medill Innocence Project.
On the other hand, I haven’t wanted to ape all those judges and prosecutors who over the years, confronted with pleas of innocence, have denied the facts in front of their eyes and ears because they were emotionally so invested in settled outcomes. I wonder now if Alvarez considers this a one-off, or if she’ll scour the state’s prisons for other injustices to rectify. And if Simon’s attorneys, Terry Ekl and James Sotos, will work as hard for, say, victims of Jon Burge, the convicted former police commander whom Sotos has previously represented.
Here, as background, are previous stories I’ve done:
Alvarez gets interested, from 2013.
Alstory Simon versus his trial lawyer, from this August.
Some background on Ekl and Sotos, from a year ago.
And from 2011, Protess versus Alvarez.