Northwestern University and former professor David Protess are being sued and accused of acting unethically in the famed Medill Innocence Project’s program investigating death row convictions.
The $40 million lawsuit claims Protess and two others “conspired to frame” Alstory Simon by getting fake evidence and witness statements and talking him into confessing, the Chicago Tribune reported. Simon pleaded guilty to two murders in 1982.
“Simon’s confession led to the release of Anthony Porter, who had been on death row for the 1982 slayings,” the Tribune explained. While Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison, his conviction was overturned after 15 years in 2014 because of concerns about his confession and the Medill investigation, the Daily Northwestern reported at the time.
“Simon’s suit alleges students working with Protess — who left the school in 2011 amid acrimony over his purported methods — gave witnesses money for drugs, lied about their identities and flirted with witnesses,” the Tribune added.
Simon’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, accused Protess of being “way off the rails.”
The lawsuit is filed against Northwestern University, Protess, Simon’s then-attorney Jack Rimland and private investigator Paul Ciolino.
In a statement, Northwestern University’s Al Cubbage Alan K. Cubbage, Vice President for University Relations, told iMediaEthics:
“The University is reviewing the allegations in the lawsuit and will respond appropriately. Northwestern denies all wrongdoing in this matter and looks forward to being vindicated in a court of law. Because this issue is now a matter of litigation, Northwestern will have no comment beyond this statement.”
Paul Ciolino and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, told the Chicago Sun Times: “Northwestern University, Dave Protess and I saved [Porter] from an unjust conviction and execution that would have never passed muster today. Last I checked, none of us had the ability to charge a suspect, plea bargain, take a case to trial or convict an inmate.”
Protess left Northwestern in 2011, the same year he was accused by the school of tricking it by giving the university “false and misleading” information related to Anthony McKinney’s court case, as iMediaEthics reported at the time.The university claimed Protess changed the text of an e-mail he provided to the university and lied to the university about how much information he provided McKinney’s lawyers.
“In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public,” Northwestern said back in 2011.
iMediaEthics has contacted Protess through the Chicago Innocence Project where he works. We have also contacted Rimland and Ciolino for comment.