Exonerated Illinois death row inmate dies in Chicago

The death row inmate, whose innocence lead to a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois, has died.

In 1983, Anthony Porter was wrongfully convicted in the murders of two teenagers.  

He was 50 hours away from being executed when a group of Northwestern students, who investigated his case, were able to set his freedom in motion. 

Porter’s case drew nationwide attention to Illinois, and the problem with wrongful convictions, FOX 32 legal analyst Larry Yellen said.

As a reporter, Yellen covered the case.

After serving 17 years on death row, Porter was exonerated in 1999.  

"It didn't happen because of DNA, which frequently turns the tide these days," said Yellen. "It happened because a witness recanted, another man apparently confessed to the crime, shortly after that, Gov. George Ryan decided that there should be a moratorium on all executions, the ending of all death row executions in Illinois."  

At the time of the murders, Porter was 27-years-old. He had been identified by several witnesses as being in the area at the time of the crime.  

A group of Northwestern students got a key witness to recant his testimony and obtained a confession from another man.  


Their investigation, called The Innocence Project, sparked others like it at universities across the country. 

"Wrongful convictions are not in fact a rarity. They frequently happen, and it's a major problem that has to be dealt with. Anthony Porter's case certainly was one of those," said Yellen.  

Porter died this week in Chicago at the age of 66.  

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s report indicates he likely died from an opioid overdose.

The man who confessed to the murders later recanted his confession. After serving fifteen years, the charges were vacated. 

The double murder remains unsolved.