In a stunning reversal, a Cook County judge ordered for a man who confessed to a 1982 double murder to be released on Thursday.
Alstory Simon wept for joy when he walked out of a downstate Illinois prison after spending 15 years behind bars.
Simon, 64, pleaded guilty to the killings in 1999 after another man, Anthony Porter, was convicted but later released. Porter came within hours of being executed and his release became a driving force in former Gov. George Ryan’s decision to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.
At a court hearing Thursday, prosecutors asked a judge to drop the charges against Simon. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez explained: “Justice compels that I take action.”
Then-Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess had led the original investigation that resulted in Porter’s release from Death Row.
Last year, Alvarez launched a re-investigation of the case, determined that Protess and his students used “alarming tactics,” and said she was “troubled” by Simon’s legal representation before he pleaded guilty.
She noted that there are witnesses who continue to maintain that Porter was the real killer.
Back in 1999, though, Cook County prosecutors offered a different story, assuring the public that justice was served when Porter was freed.
Simon, who plans to reunite with his family, hopes to see his daughter, grandson and sister on Friday.
He was picked up from Jacksonville Correctional Center by filmmaker Shawn Rech, who produced a movie about his case, “A Murder in the Park.”
Simon was scheduled for parole in 2017.
Best of luck to Mr. Simon as he embarks on his new-found freedom.
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