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Jury rejects former inmate's claim against Chicago PD

The Associated Press

CHICAGO- A jury rejected a $24 million lawsuit brought by a former death row inmate who claimed Chicago police conspired to frame him for two murders.

Anthony Porter spent more than 16 years in prison and came within two days of being executed. He was freed in 1999 after a Northwestern University journalism teacher and his students found another man who confessed to the killings.

The civil jury decided Tuesday that detectives were not malicious in their investigation and had reason to focus on Porter as the lead suspect.

"We are absolutely stunned," said Porter's attorney, James Montgomery Jr. "It is difficult to get inside the mechanization of the police force, and it is the police that control the facts."

After his release, Porter sued the city of Chicago, the police department and eight officers. He received a $145,875 restitution check from the state in 2000.

During the civil trial, a witness testified that police threatened him into naming Porter as the gunman in the 1982 slayings. Porter also alleged that police ignored information that would have led to the real killer and exonerated him.

The man who confessed has since recanted. And an attorney for the city in the civil trial argued that police had the right man in Porter.

"The killer has been sitting in that room right there all day," Walter Jones said, pointing to the table where Porter sat.

Porter's case helped prompt then-Gov. George Ryan to halt all executions in Illinois and clear out death row by commuting the sentences of 167 killers. He warned that Illinois' capital punishment system was "haunted by the demon of error."

Since then, the state has adopted more safeguards in death penalty cases, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich has kept the moratorium on executions in place.

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