OUT PORTER'S MURDER CONVICTIONS
By Monica Davey
Ex-Death Row inmate Anthony Porter rejoiced in Cook County Criminal Court today, as a judge dismissed a double murder conviction stemming from a 1982 South Side slaying.
But the court appearance was not all positive for Porter, with Judge Thomas Fitzgerald delaying a decision on two other charges on which he was sentenced.
Those charges, armed robbery and unlawful restraint, stemmed from an incident on the same night as the Washington Park murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green that sent Porter to Death Row.
Porter was released from prison in early February after a group of Northwestern University students, along with their professor, found evidence to implicate another man, Alstory Simon, in the double murder. Simon has since been charged.
Porter was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the armed robbery and unlawful restraint convictions, and his attorney estimated that he would have been released from prison after 15 years of time served, or about two years ago.
Though Porter would not face more prison time, those two convictions could be a significant factor in any judgment he might get in a civil rights lawsuit against the state.
"I thank God for my innocence, and I thank God that I'm free," said Porter, who appeared in court in a pin-striped, double-breasted suit that was donated to him by a church. But he said he was disturbed by the judge's decision to delay a ruling on the other two charges against him.
"I'm angry about it. All this stuff was supposed to have been thrown out," Porter said. "We went through a lot of trouble in our family already, and they keep messing around on this."
Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Gainer defended the decision to not dismiss all of the charges at this time. He said an investigation by the office revealed no evidence that the armed robbery and unlawful restraint convictions were not reasonable to begin with.
Under the state's reparation law, Porter, 44, could qualify for a maximum of $140,350 for his years of imprisonment, though some state legislators have discussed raising that ceiling.
And although he has not done so, Porter could bring a civil rights action against the state. In that case, he could be awarded significantly more money, a possibility highlighted by a $36 million award to the plaintiffs in the Ford Heights Four case this month.
In that case, four men who spent years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murdering a suburban couple two decades ago brought a civil rights suit against Cook County officials.
The amount of money Porter might be awarded in such a claim, however, could change drastically depending on whether he is seen to have spent only two years in prison for a crime he didn't commit rather than 17 years.
The judge will make a ruling on the armed robbery and unlawful restraint convictions at an April 20 hearing.