Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Texas two-step

Well, now that the Chicago Tribune has spent hundreds of hours of staff time writing about executions in Texas, maybe they can focus on a much bigger story -- whether the world famous exoneration of Anthony Porter (above left) was a fraud.

There is an important hearing this morning (Thursday) at 26th and Cal where lawyers for Alstory Simon (above right) will try to convince a Cook County judge that an evidentiary hearing is warranted because of all the new evidence in the case. I have written extensively about Porter/Simon in this thread on my blog.

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, who serves as the unofficial media "gatekeeper" of all potential wrongful prosecution cases, says he favors a new hearing for Simon. But he's saying that on his interesting blog and not in one of his more widely read newspaper columns. In those, he has raised loud skepticism of the motives of Simon's attorneys and not weighed in on the facts of the case.

The Sun-Times, as I noted earlier, has not written a single word about the matter. I have no idea if the paper will send a reporter to this morning's hearing.

Back to Tribune. It will be interesting to watch how the Trib staffs this story as it unfolds. To its credit, so far, the Tribune has not blown off the story like the Sun-Times. However, it has hardly scratched the surface of the saga and has assigned only one reporter to it, as far as I can tell. With other "wrongful prosecution" cases it is interested in, the Trib routinely assigns a team of reporters for months to look at records and interview witnesses.

In covering two largely forgotten Texas executions, the Tribune clearly is aiming to "score" the first documented case of a person who was executed for a crime he did not commit. I read the two Texas cases the Tribune wrote about in recent weeks and I think the paper fell short.

Yes, doubts were raised. Yet, there was no smoking gun in either case that proved the innocence of the men executed. And I always apply the 25 percent rule to Tribune wrongful execution stories. That is, I assume that the case for innocence is inflated at least 25 percent because it makes it a better story.

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