A freed inmate is suing Northwestern University, as a former professor reportedly coerced him to make a false confession. Alstory Simon claims David Protess used intimidation and threats to coerce him into confessing to the 1982 murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green. As a result of the confession, Alstory Simon spent 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Although he was eventually exonerated, the freed inmate is suing Northwestern University for allowing Protess to conduct the questionable interrogation.
In 1982, Jerry Hillard and Marilyn green were found shot to death in Chicago’s Washington Park. After interviewing several witnesses, authorities identified Anthony Porter as their primary suspect.
Although he was mentally disabled, with an IQ of 51, Porter was arrested and charged in the double homicide. He was later convicted and sentenced to death.
In 1999, former Professor David Protess, a strong proponent of the The Medill Innocence Project, featured Porter’s case in his Investigative Journalism class.
Working with private investigator Paul Ciolino, Protess and his students identified Alstory Simon as an alternate suspect in the 1982 double homicide. As stated in his lawsuit, Simon said the men came to his home to conduct the unusual interrogation.
As reported by CBS News, Simon claims he was encouraged to confess, as he would only “serve a short time in prison, and would get rich from book and movie deals.” Simon said he eventually agreed to confess, as he was threatened with bodily harm.
Following Simon’s confession, Anthony Porter was exonerated and freed from death row. At the time of his release, he was fewer than 48 hours away from his scheduled execution.
In September 1999, Alstory Simon pleaded guilty to the 1982 double homicide and was sentenced to 37 years in prison. Although he later recanted his confession, he remained in prison for 16 years.
Ironically, Simon’s videotaped confession would later help secure his own exoneration.
In 2013, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez reexamined Simon’s case. As reported by Chicago Reader, Alvarez later determined that David Protess and Paul Ciolino employed “alarming… coercive tactics” during Simon’s interrogation. She further determined that their methods were “entirely unacceptable by law enforcement standards.”
In late 2014, Alstory Simon was exonerated and released from prison. Although the 64-year-old man is happy to be home, he believes he lost some of the best years of his life.
The freed inmate is suing Northwestern University for $40 million. He also named former Professor David Protess, private investigator Paul Ciolino, and attorney Jack Rimland, in the lawsuit.