|DEATH ROW INMATE'S
HEARING IS PUT ON HOLD
By Douglas Holt
Citing the "serious nature" of new information dug up by Northwestern University journalism students that could exonerate Death Row inmate Anthony Porter, Cook County prosecutors filed an emergency motion Tuesday to delay hearings into whether Porter is mentally fit to die.
Porter, 44, was convicted of killing Marilyn Green, 19, and her fiance, Jerry Hillard, 18, in Washington Park on Chicago's South Side on Aug. 15, 1982. Last September, two days before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Illinois Supreme Court put off the execution amid questions about his mental competency.
On Tuesday, Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Gainer Jr. met for three hours with NU journalism professor David Protess and five students to discuss the case.
The students, led by Protess, revisited witnesses originally interviewed by authorities and also sought out others. The effort produced signed affidavits from four people and one videotaped statement that appear to undercut the case against Porter. The statements point to another man believed to be in Milwaukee.
"These affidavits include recantations of testimony at trial as well as evidence that points to another person as having perpetrated these crimes," prosecutors wrote in their emergency motion. "The People believe that theses claims of innocence should be investigated before the fitness hearing proceeds."
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Bilandic signed an order granting a 90-day extension for the mental fitness hearing.
"We're taking it very seriously," Gainer said. "I think we need to take a timeout here and examine these new allegations."
Porter's defense lawyer, Daniel Sanders, said he expects to file a motion claiming his client's innocence by week's end.
Among those interviewed by the students were the state's key witness, William Taylor, who said he was "threatened, harassed and intimidated into naming Anthony Porter" by Chicago police--a charge police spokesman Pat Camden questioned.
The students also questioned Margaret Simon, who said, on videotape and in an affidavit, that she was present when her now-estranged husband had an argument with Hillard about a drug debt before pulling out a revolver and killing the couple.