The Chicago Innocence project was founded, and still lists as President, David Protess. David is the former Jounalism teacher at NorthWestern University that is responsible for the the investigation and freeing of a guilty man, claiming he was innocent, and incarcerating an innocent man, claiming he was guilty.
Along with a team of students: Tom McCann; Shawn Armbrust; Erica LaBorgne; and Syandene Rhodes-Pitts, Protess embarked on a journey of manufacturing a case for the innocence of the man convicted. A man who was identified by four witnesses, who was seen with the gun, and who was seen shooting one of the two victims.
The resulting remanufacture of the facts and public exposure created a groundswell of support that the convicted murderer was innocent. At the same time, working with a private investigator, Paul Ciolino, known for questionable tactics, a confession was obtained from another man proving once and for all the guilty man must be innocent. Porter was released from prison two days before he was to be put to death, and in a move of conscience Illinois repealed the death penalty for all prisoners.
Thanks to the efforts of this intrepid team an innocent man was sent to prison, a guilty man was set free.
The details are disturbing - in our rush to blame the police, whether for gross negligence or incompetence, we are always certain we know better. In this case the NWU team, lead by David Protess and Shawn Armbrust said they were seeking truth when in fact they were manufacturing 'truth' to seek the outcome they wanted. They ignored key elements of the case and extraordinarily enough, for a class of investigative journalism, did not investigate the elements of the case as they existed at the time of the shootings.
Ultimately, after a period of identified misconduct, Protess was fired from NorthWestern. Unfortunately he is the founder and President of the Chicago Innocence Project. He was not prosecuted by the Chicago DA because by the time all the facts of his actions became known the statue of limitations had run out. That does not make him less a criminal. It is unfortunate to see him having potential influence over others doing this work.
Also, Shawn Armbrust is the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and, while acknowledging how she benefited from her participation in this event, she has yet to acknowledge her complicity in freeing a murderer and convicting an innocent man. Failure to acknowledge her part in that outcome calls into question her ability to know innocence in place of perceptual innocence. Perceptual innocence just means I happen to think you're innocent.
Admission of complicity would go a long way to demonstrate they have integrity. Protess has consistently contradicted himself about what he knew or didn't know, and Armbrust has chosen to not correct or adjust her previous false statements. They represent ego not compassion. Complicity not Innocence.
Innocence is not malleable. You cannot manufacture innocence for the guilty and guilt for the innocent. Innocence is Innocence.
For more information watch the movie, 'A Murder in the Park' and read about the case at these sites: