A chance to get community banking right — again

By Deborah Douglas

When ShoreBank was good – it was very good.

When ShoreBank was bad – it was horrid.

Because ShoreBank forgot where it came from and was seduced by the exotic world of global finance, it neglected its customer base back home. And it failed, becoming the 118th bank casualty of 2010.

But before the forces of anti-community lending crowd out any logical thinking on the subject, we must remember that honest, authentic, face-to-face community banking works. Though the South Side-based, so-called community bank has been refashioned as Urban Partnership Bank, let’s not blame its intended customer base: Low- and moderate-income residents, and minorities didn’t cause ShoreBank to fail.

Management did.

ShoreBank and its related entities forgot its mission to serve Chicago’s redlined communities on the South Side as its enterprising founders did in 1973 with the best of intentions. Since its inception, ShoreBank facilitated more than $3.8 billion in domestic loans and more than $3.4 billion internationally.

But if you look at the loans that contributed to ShoreBank’s downfall, a picture emerges. The bank lost on single-family investments, condo conversions and commercial real-estate in Detroit. Moreover, the “community bank” had expanded overseas to Indian and East African mircolending and investing in Native American concerns in the Pacific Northwest. It perfected the art of making multifamily building loans to new immigrants buying overvalued properties on the South Side – and not to citizens from the community.

These loans do not fit the profile of lower- and moderate-income, and minority borrowers ShoreBank vowed to service.

Creditworthiness is half the formula of successful banking. The character of borrowers is the other ingredient and something for which ShoreBank was uniquely qualified when it stayed in its own backyard. In fact, excellence in understanding the nuances of Chicago’s South Side, with its access to the lakefront and manufacturing jobs is what propelled ShoreBank to success. It was Chicago that created the profits allowing ShoreBank to offer revolutionary products like microloans and cooperatives in 51 emerging economies and fund a Bangladesh-based NGO.

In the end, ShoreBank didn’t even offer to its own constituents these life-changing products. Neither did the bank ever raise a debt fund for the minority community it purports to serve. Think about it: That’s like exporting cars overseas, then selling Americans bicycles.

Folks will question whether ShoreBank marks end of the community banking business model. The real question is why the bank went international? The bank didn’t possess the corporate competencies to function as successfully there as it did at home.

Some very real questions are why ShoreBank didn’t get any TARP funds? Who made that decision? What is his or her name? Why did investment banks with no mission on Main Street get federal bailout money instead? Who has the potential to do the most good for working men and women, and families? Seriously, if Goldman Sachs wouldn’t lend to General Motors, AIG or General Growth, what makes anyone think they’ll lend to you?

And why is The Bank That Forgot to Serve being run by the same management team that ran it in the ground under the banner that is Urban Partnership Bank?

In the beginning, ShoreBank didn’t do anything particularly innovative, just thorough and decent. And bank officials were well compensated for their service, so much so that Chicago’s philanthropic community, such as the MacArthur Foundation, endorsed it with deposits and goodwill. Now taxpayers are on the hook for $367.7 million, and the FDIC is breaking its own rules by allowing the same managers to remain at the helm.

So don’t blame regular folks for South Shore’s poorly conceived efforts, lack of discipline, bad management and change of mission. Obviously the nuts and bolts worked because the bank exported it overseas.

This was — and is — a great neighborhood for business. If Urban Partnership Bank remembers where it came from, it will be a great place to do business again.


HuffPo:Burge’s cops need to be brought to justice

Huffington Post contributor Zondra Hughes interviews Jonathan Jackson about what must be done now that former Lt. Cmdr. Jon Burge has been convicted of lying about torturing suspects in Chicago Police Department custody and obstructing justice during efforts to get to the bottom of torture claims.

By Zondra Hughes

Jonathan Jackson, National Spokesman for the Rainbow Push Coalition, says hope is not lost, and that the trust between the cops and the community can be restored.

And just like his civil rights activist father, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, this Mr. Jackson has an agenda to get the ball rolling.

How prevalent is police misconduct?

We have many great police officers and we can trace this police misconduct to less than two percent of the officers. The Chicago Reader reported that between 2005-2008, the city of Chicago–with a population of 2.5 million people–paid out more in police misconduct and settlements than Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Dallas, cities that, when combined, have a population of 10.1 million. Chicago is not more violent, but something is happening that is rather peculiar.

What is at the root of this disconnect between the police and the community?

The police have had this code of silence, which is wrong, and is corrosive to trust and to building a great community. A great community starts with trust and with the community talking to the police. When I was growing up, there was Officer Friendly; we had more park districts so the children can have organized play and recreation. We need to build up the park districts and not just build up the police precincts.

Jon Burge has been convicted; is it time to put this behind us if we want to repair relations?

There are still officers on the force that worked under and for former Commander Jon Burge. Burge did not create these atrocities and put these men on death row by himself. They absolutely need to be brought to justice as we try to rebuild the trust between the police and the community. And violence can become a disease.

Is police brutality an issue only in the Black community?

For what we know about police brutality in the Caucasian community is that it certainly happens. We’ve seen that with bartender Karolina Obrycka; the attack was caught on surveillance videotape, so it is certainly happening. What we haven’t seen is Caucasian young men being put on death row by African American officers. That’s something that happened in the city of Chicago when former Commander Jon Burge and his cronies put 12 men on death row, wrongfully, and four of those men were completely innocent. There’s brutality but there has never been torture that has been alleged for as long and confirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court Federal Judge Ward Kimball Wood, U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Chicago City Council have not paid out 20 Caucasians because it’s never happened to them.

What is hindering progress to weed out the abusive police?

There’s no transparency in the executive branch of the municipal government. The mayor, as chief executive officer, appoints the superintendent of police. The mayor also appoints the Chicago Police Board. So, if you have a complaint against the police, you have to call the Police Department’s Internal Affairs and that complaint is sent to the Office of Professional Standards, and to another person that the mayor appoints–and then it goes to the superintendent of police.

Equal protection and equal justice is a reasonable expectation for all citizens to want to achieve. And most cultures and civilizations collapse because of the collapse of the judicial system. Be it the coalmine workers in West Virginia, or the offshore oil workers in the Gulf of Mexico, or the men in Chicago that were put on death row, it speaks to a lack of regulation and an enforcement of our laws. We have laws to protect against these acts, but we need honorable people to enforce those laws.

Hughes is the editor and author of “Living The Ebony Life: E-Mails From the Plantation”

Jon Burge

Jon Burge guilty, guilty, guilty

By Deborah Douglas

Testimony from a group of swarthy, hard-faced former burglars, robbers and gang-bangers likely made reaching a guilty verdict Monday against former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge all the more difficult.

Jon Burge

Really, though, the case hinged on the one victim who didn’t testify but whose case is responsible for charges finally being brought Burge: Madison Hobley, the one true innocent.

Notarized answers former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge gave to legal questions in a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed against him in 2003 by Hobley proved the clincher that caught Burge in the lie he’s told for too long.

Burge was found guilty on one court of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice. He faces 45 years in prison and fines. Free on bond, Burge will be sentenced Nov. 5.

“I’m elated that a jury of predominately white people have spoken and said it’s wrong to torture African-American men,” regardless of their criminal histories, said G. Flint Taylor, a Chicago attorney who represents several Burge torture victims.

A giddy Rob Warden, executive director the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions, said: “I find it difficult to be rooting for the prosecution. If this hadn’t happened, it would have been a tremendous setback” in addressing pending torture claims. “Some people will be getting out.”

Former suspects, and medical and legal professionals who testified, plus photos, contradicted the white-haired, patrician Burge’s confident assertions in Judge Joan Lefkow’s courtroom that he’d never engaged in torture and the notarized interrogatories he signed in 2003 were confusing to answer.

Victims testified Burge or officers working for him employed a menu torture techniques: using pinchy alligator clips to administer electro-shock, and shocking their genitals and other body parts with probes, smothering them with plastic bags, strapping them to a radiator and scorching them, and playing Russian roulette. One witness, Andrew Wilson, testified from the grave, as Judge Lefkow allowed a federal agent to read previous testimony Wilson had given.

So if a parade of former and dead criminals, and suspected bleeding-heart liberals in the form of a jail doctor and defense attorneys made it difficult to believe anything other than Burge and his underlings — called the A-Team — were just trying to do their jobs, the written record laid bare the big lie.

In Hobley’s case, the only thing the then-26-year-old was “guilty” of was cheating on his wife, as former Chicago Reader writer John Conroy so eloquently illustrated in a May 2000 piece examining how Hobley ended up on Death Row after his wife and toddler died in a South Side fire. Investigating police said Hobley’s motive was to get rid of his wife and baby so he could resume a relationship with a former mistress. In truth, police falsified and withheld evidence.

Pardoned by George Ryan in 2003, Hobley, sat on death row more than a decade after he was tortured — beaten and bagged — into confessing to setting the East 82nd Street apartment fire on January 6, 1987 that killed his family and several neighbors. In 2009, the city of Chicago settled Hobley’s wrongful conviction suit for $1 million.

Outside the courtroom Monday, onlookers expressed joy that a jury with only one black person, finally validated what millions of dollars in special investigations and reports have said all along: Jon Burge routinely tortured and abused black male suspects in his custody during his tenure at Chicago’s Area 2 on the South Side.

“A lot of really good police officers go out every day to protect the citizens of Chicago,” said Ald. Ed Smith (28th) who attended the trial daily. “The few bad apples that have caused pain to the city of Chicago, that has to be stopped.”

The Burge verdict is only the beginning. The likes of Taylor, call for prosecution of the other officers who worked and allegedly tortured at Burge’s pleasure. Other wrongful conviction advocates want retrials for men making credible claims that Burge tortured them into false confessions:  “All of the people in jail,” Smith said. “… I want those people out, and I want them made whole.”


Exoneree: ‘It was a nightmare’

By Tim Bearden, Special to The Jackson File

If one were to speak with Rev. Oscar Walden Jr., he or she wouldn’t think he was a criminal, let alone ever done jail time. His demeanor is jovial and he thanks God for what he’s been given in life.

Walden was arrested in 1952 for rape, pardoned by Gov. James Thompson in 1978 and granted a pardon of innocence in 2003 by Gov. George Ryan. He is currently suing the city of Chicago because he was allegedly tortured into giving a confession for a crime he didn’t commit.

He is Illinois’ first exonerated prisoner based on evidence of coercion.

Walden was raised on Chicago’s South Side in what’s now known as Bronzeville. He grew up in what he called a “rat and roach infested fire trap” with his mother, sisters and brother. He said his sisters used to complain about being bitten by vermin.

In the middle 1940s he said his mother applied for a home near Roseland where he and his family were to get away from these living conditions. At first Walden was excited to get out of the home, but if he had known then what he knows now, he says would have rather stayed.

“If I had known what was waiting for us out there, I would have said leave us here with the rats, roaches and bed bugs,” Walden says.

It was pre-Civil Rights Chicago and Walden said the community they moved to whites and blacks had to “rub shoulders together,” something whites weren’t ready for yet, he says.

“From day one there was conflict out there between the whites and the blacks,” Walden says.

Walden went to Wendell Phillips High School and graduated June 1951, married on Aug. 26, 1951 and was arrested accused of raping a white divorcee on Jan. 11, 1952, his mother’s birthday.

Walden was riding the bus to work at a foundry with his testament in hand because he was studying at Moody Bible Institute. When he got on the bus he was at 103rd St. headed east. At 106th, three police officers, one in uniform and two in plain clothes, boarded the bus and informed Walden he was being arrested but didn’t tell him what for.

“I’d never been in any trouble,” he said. “Never had any problems. Never had a record or anything.”

When Walden asked what he was arrested for, the officers told him he would find out at the police station.

Walden says the officers took him to the back of the police station and began questioning him without a lawyer present. They asked him where he was on Nov. 24, 1951, about seven weeks before his arrest.

Walden says they kicked him on the shins until he answered them, but he couldn’t remember off the top of his head where he was. Then they made him take a lie detector test and told him if he passed they’d let him go.

“I felt relieved because I know I’m telling the truth,” he says.

The officer administering the lie detector test told him he passed, but the interrogating officer told him he failed it the next day in the Kensington police station at 115th and Cottage Grove.

“It was a nightmare,” Walden says.

Walden says the officers asking the questions were playing “good cop, bad cop.” One officer was from the 11th Street police station, the headquarters at the time, and Walden was told they “treat them awful bad down at 11th Street” as part of the routine.

“You do this to somebody who had never been through this, it’s horrific,” Walden says. “I don’t know what to do.”

An officer came back into the room and started slapping Walden in the face until he confessed. At the same time the other officer in the room bent back Walden’s fingers, which he still has the scars from the policeman’s fingernails digging into his skin. They insisted on knowing where Walden was on Nov. 24, 1951.

Telling the story today, Walden’s hands are trembling and his voice quivers. When Walden didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, he said the officers threatened to get rope to tie him up in another cell but wasn’t sure what they were going to do to him.

“I’m ready to say whatever they want me to say, really,” Walden says. “I’m almost at that point.”

The officers also threatened Walden to evict his mother and wife, and threatened his father would lose his job. That’s when he decided to confess.

Later, when out on bond, his father showed him a receipt from Lion and Healy’s music store dated Nov. 24, 1951.

The receipt wasn’t allowed as part of his defense in court, and Walden was sentenced to 75 years in prison for rape.

After 13 years in prison, Walden was released on parole and later pardoned by Thompson and granted a pardon of innocence in 2003 by Ryan at the request of the parole board. On the day Walden was pardoned by Ryan, the only thing he thought about was his mom and dad.

“I just regretted that my mother and father had died,” Walden says.

His mother visited him in prison regularly, and he could never repay her for that: “It didn’t snow too hard; it didn’t rain too hard; the snow didn’t get too deep for her not to come and see me in prison,” Walden says.

Photo by Jetta Bates-Vasilatos

‘That man is cruel. They tortured me.’

Anthony Holmes

Anthony Holmes testified recently at the Jon Burge perjury and torture trial. His story was featured on Tom Joyner’s BlackAmericaWeb.com:

Blacks Tortured By Police Have Their Say

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By: Deborah Douglas

“I have not observed nor do I have knowledge of any other examples of physical abuse and/or torture on the part of Chicago Police officers at Area 2.” — Jon Burge’s sworn answer in previous court proceedings about torture claims

CHICAGO — When it came to interfacing with the cops, Anthony Holmes expected to get popped “upside the head.” But on May 29, 1973, when he was brought into a South Side station for questioning about a murder, he didn’t expect to be suffocated, beaten or shocked on his genitals.

“You expect to be locked up by police or hit upside the head,” Holmes, 63, told a jury in federal court during the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of former police Lt. Cmdr. Jon Burge. “That man is cruel. They tortured me. They tried to kill me.”

Holmes nodded toward the heavy set, white-haired man sitting at the defense table to his far left. “That man” is Burge, who faces the latest of many attempts to secure justice for the black men he is accused of “bagging” to suffocate them into confessions. Burge and a group under his command have been accused of beating suspects and using a “black box” attached with wires and alligator clips to electrocute their ears, nose, inner thighs and genitals.

“I had been telling them ever since I had been locked up,” Holmes insisted, when the defense asked him what took him so long to speak up. “Didn’t nobody believe that back then.”

A lot of people believe Holmes now. And it’s the cover-up, not the crime, for which federal prosecutors are trying Burge.

Prosecutors say Burge lied in 2003 court proceedings about whether he and his underlings — a group of white detectives known as the “A-Team” — participated in torture or physical abuse of suspects as far back as the ’80s. The highly decorated officer, eventually fired in 1993, was arrested in his Apollo, Florida home in 2008. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of two counts of obstruction and five years for perjury.

Burge’s lawyers say the torture accusations are trumped up by a group of bad men — gang-bangers with well-documented rap sheets. They have suggested the gang connection allowed the men to synch up a torture narrative as a way to beat the various charges against them.

Though Burge was never been tried for actually torturing suspects, it’s not for a lack of trying. A $7 million, four-year, court-ordered special prosecutors’ investigation released in 2006 concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” Burge tortured the late Andrew Wilson in 1982. However, they also insisted “the statute of limitations bars any prosecution of any officers.”

Other special reports found ample evidence of torture by Burge & Co. In addition to former suspects — including a dead man’s testimony — former or current public defenders, lawyers and medical professionals backed up these claims during the three weeks the prosecution has presented its case.

“We’ve been painted as bigots and racists,” said Burge lawyer Rick Beuke at one point of frustration during the proceedings. “I have a bit of a thick skin, but it’s getting old.”

A self-confessed burglar for much of his life, Gregory Banks, 46, was convicted of murdering a man during a scuffle over a gun at a South Side game room in 1983. Banks served “seven years and three days” after he confessed, worn down and frightened after being kicked, hit with a flashlight, suffocated with a plastic bag placed over his head and having a “nickel-plated .45” shoved in his mouth. Burge wasn’t in the room when he was tortured, but he “peeped in” — “maybe twice,” Banks said.

“My case would never have gotten overturned if this isn’t what happened, and you know that!” Gregory Banks shouted to the defense during a hostile round of question-and-answer. In fact, Banks confession was coerced, his conviction overturned. He later won a civil judgment, too.

On the night Banks was tortured, a detective told him: “We have something special for niggers,’” he testified, making sure to enunciate the name of the man he says literally took his breath away – in a bad way: “Peter Dignan put the bag over my head again. When he took it off, I said, ‘I’ll tell you anything you wanna know.’”

A key testimony was actually a from-the-grave account by Andrew Wilson. Convicted of killing two police officers, William Fahey and Richard O’Brien, the case was eventually overturned. A federal agent acted-out a transcript from a previous case in which Wilson detailed what happened to him the night of Feb. 14, 1982.

“Burge came into the room and told me his reputation was at stake, and I was going to make a statement,” Wilson said.

After Burge stretched Wilson across a heated radiator, “He started patting them on my ear,” Wilson said of alligator or roach clips attached to wires, much like the device Holmes mentioned. “I was just hollering and screaming. I was spitting out blood.”

“I was screaming loud enough for everybody to hear me,” Wilson said.

Prosecutors showed photos of Wilson with a bandaged head and burn marks on his chest, nose and ears. Wilson said officers banged his head against the wall on the way to a paddy wagon, opening up on old would. He said he was told to refuse medical treatment when he was taken to the hospital.

“He told me if I knew what was good for me, I would refuse treatment,” Wilson said of one of the officers who as escorted him to emergency to a now-defunct South Side hospital.

When he got back to the station, Wilson testified that Burge said, “He was going to fry my black a–. He said put me in a cell with some prisoners so it would look like they beat me up.”

In fact, there was nothing inside the cell that would allow Wilson to burn himself, said Dr. John Raba, then-director of the Cook County Jail health service.

Raba testified he paid a personal visit to Wilson’s cell after a doctor called him at home. Raba ended up writing a letter to the police superintendent seeking an investigation into Wilson’s injuries. He said he faced political pressure to drop his inquiry, including a call from the county board president.

Raba testified: “He said he had electrical shocks given to his lips and genitals … He was quiet and cooperative, responded lucidly. The injuries were consistent with what he told me.”

As Holmes and others have taken the stand to detail the abuses against them, none of them took umbrage at the mention of their criminal histories. Onlookers in the always-full courtroom said that’s only is a distraction to keep the jury from focusing on the real issue — and it could work.

“All it takes is one confused juror,” said Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition and an advocate for the innocent and wrongfully convicted.

Deborah Douglas, who has written extensively about the wrongfully convicted and the innocent, is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University.

Anthony Porter

Life after Death Row

By Courtney Wade, Special to The Jackson File

When he heard the gospel, Anthony Porter, then 45, was sitting in a bare, windowless holding cell, killing time before the state would kill him.

Clad in the last suit he would ever wear, the man for whom innocence hung on his shoulders like a makeshift cross had gathered his burdensome limbs and forced his body to the floor just as his parents had taught him when he was a child

“I got on my knees, submitting to God…I wondered, ‘What I did to deserve this?’” he remembers. “They were going to execute me. [I prayed,] ‘Please save my life.’”

It was nearly the same prayer that Porter had prayed over and over for 16 years at times through a waterfall of tears and a heaving chest, with the anguish of diminished self-esteem and an I.Q. that had plummeted under penitentiary pressures. All while his youth dried up like a raisin in the sun.

Only this time, God heard Porter’s plea.

“It was like something came down and put his hand on my shoulder. All that relief…All the pain came out of my body,” the former inmate recalled. “He said, ‘You’re my son. You’re not going to die.’”

Porter’s epiphany was true; his freedom stood within his reach. Having exhausted his appeals, he had been merely 50 hours away from execution when he won a reprieve from the Illinois Supreme Court near the end of 1998. Ironically, the condemned man’s saving grace was a failed I.Q. test that left the court uncertain as to whether he could comprehend his circumstances and the ensuing death sentence.

It was a triumphant day for the former dead man walking, whose family happily canceled funeral arrangements and planned a celebration for their loved one. Without access to a television or radio and years of the worst imaginable abuse and manipulation from prison staff members, Porter was perhaps the last one to believe.

“The guards kept saying they found the real killer; but I thought they were messing around,” the free man recants. Once he realized that the truth would indeed free him, “I really started crying tears of joy for all the people who helped me.”

The people who helped Porter are Northwestern University Prof. David Protess, a private investigator Paul Ciolino, and a team of journalism students. They investigated the case and established his complete innocence. Porter, who had previously served a sentence for robbery in 1980, had been convicted of the murders of Marilyn Green, 19, and Jerry Hillard, 18. The victims had been shot to death on the bleachers overlooking a swimming pool in Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago shortly after 1 a.m. on August 15, 1982. Initially, police thought the crime to be an armed robbery, but it is now known to have resulted from a dispute over drug money.

Porter’s nightmare began he said when he and his parents, went to the Chicago Police Station at 51st and Wentworth. He says police officers convinced his parents everything would be fine and when they left the torture began.

According to Porter, he was handcuffed to the wall by one arm and called a n—–, a murderer, a liar, a piece of shit, and a fucking animal while in a small interrogation room. The police officers taunted him and placed two microphones on the table, telling Porter to confess to the murders.

“I knew I was going to die. I just knew they gon’ kill me for something I didn’t do,” Porter said. “I was hollering for my life. I was hurting because I was so terrified.”

As the Good Cop, Bad Cop game ensued, he recalls one officer punching him in his left jaw repeatedly and demanding that he confess and sign the paper.  A combination of three officers beat him with the telephone book, splashed water in his face and even strangled him with a typewriter bag until he lost consciousness. Each time he fell unconscious, he was awakened to continued beatings. They pulled the chair from under him and stood on top of him as he wiggled in agony. Porter still has the scars from where the handcuffs sliced deeply into his right wrist.

Despite his proclamations of innocence and lack of physical evidence linking the gang member to the murders, he was arrested and charged with two murders, one count of armed robbery, one count of unlawful restraint, and two counts of unlawful use of weapons.

Rather than rely on a public defender, Porter’s family hired a Chicago attorney, Akim Gursel, and agreed to pay him $10,000 to defend him. However, they paid him only $3,000. Gursel, who is even recorded as falling asleep during court procedures, later confessed that, due to lack of funds, he stopped investigating.

As Porter was escorted from the courtroom, after being sentenced to the death penalty, he says he can still hear his daughter screaming in distress. It was one of the sounds that haunted him as his nightmare changed settings from the county jail to Menard Correctional Facility six hours away in downstate Illinois. There he was placed in a cell next to notorious serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.

“I couldn’t even look into his [Gacy’s] eyes. I was still nervous for something I didn’t do.”

After complaining about his cell’s proximity to Gacy’s, Porter was thrown into what he calls the Vault.

“I stayed in there 23 hours a day…[It was like] a condemned building,” said Porter. “It smelled like cockroaches. I didn’t never know if it was daytime or nighttime. That’s why my eyes are messed up now.”

Porter’s dilemma involved him getting sick from consuming contaminated jail food as well as from fasting.  He said jail staff members routinely poisoned his food with dead rodents, urine, and even the spit from snuff.

“I wouldn’t wish that on any man or woman,” he said. “They were trying to break me.”

The only time spent outside of the Vault was when a chained Porter was led by two in front and two in rear armed with rifles and helmets to the stalls for an ice-cold shower.  The shower was filthy with peeling paint chips, roaches and mold scattered about. The length of his shower depended on the mood of the jail staff members who continued to name-call while Porter undressed. Sometimes it was enough; sometimes he begged in vain to rinse the soap from his naked body.

In addition to being humiliated, Porter endured being sprayed with tear gas, stomped on by jail guards, attacked by dogs, and hosed down by water hoses powerful enough to break one’s neck. During those times, Porter remembered his mother’s advice: to look to the hills from whence his strength came. It was her and her husband’s strong Christian faith that continued to inspire their son when his body felt broken. It was his prayers that his innocence would prevail that kept him alive.

Today, Porter, 54, bears witness that the best parts about being free are spending time with his family, breathing fresh air and making plans to start his own chain of soul food restaurants. Once off the ground, the restaurant chain will be named Clara May’s Soul Food, in honor of his mother. One of his other focuses is speaking publicly about the plight innocent and tortured victims, police brutality, ending the death penalty. Porter has joined a growing fraternity of African American men who seek another chance to support themselves, their families and their communities that they have been absent from for so long.

“I have to do this because the Anthony Porter story got to be told,” he says with a smile.

Jon Burge

Conroy’s Chicago torture archive

John Conroy

The most comprehensive work in uncovering facts to discover people who have been wrongfully convicted in the Chicago area has been done by John Conroy for the Chicago Reader. Here, you can link to his archive that highlights the rights and wrongs of our justice system, the good people and the bad ones.