Documentary Film Review “A Murder In The Park”

A Murder In The Park3 A Murder In The Park1 A Murder In The Park2


First, the Recap:

You’ve heard the tales before. Innocent until proven guilty.  You’ve seen it on the news. An innocent man wrongly accused, paying the price for another person’s lies and crime. In this country, it is asserted that a fair trial will determine the guilty or not guilty, with the former sentenced to the justice the crime warranted. Such was the case involving one Anthony Porter, sitting on Death Row in 1999, just hours before lethal injection, for the murder of two people in a Chicago park. But, an investigation by a group of students from Northwestern University’s Medill journalism school shines a light on the case that ultimately brings a stay of execution, and subsequently release, for Porter, leading to an abolishment of the death penalty in IL.

Meanwhile, University journalism professor David Protess, who spearheaded the creation of the well-reputed Innocence Project,  and the students involved are lauded for their work, all while the real killer, Alstory Simon, goes to prison. But when circumstances about the case are dug into by this documentary crew via multiple interviews with former detectives, legal representatives, and Alstory himself, plus letters and documents from the period, it presents a startling and equally disturbing amount of evidence to indicate not only did the Northwestern investigation put the wrong man behind bars and free the real killer, but additionally, the lies perpetrated by Protess and associates like P.I. Paul Ciolino and lawyer Jack Rimland among others to create the “guilt” of Simon all come into a sobering and shocking reality.

Next, my Mind:

Despite the times we have heard about corruption within the legal system and the people it ends up hurting, seeing the story of Anthony Porter and Alstory Simon is one that the viewer cannot help but sit and shake their head in disbelief and how one group of men could end up making such a terrible decision and choice that subjected a truly innocent man to 15+ years of prison time while a real killer walked free, much less to become the poster child for Illinois taking away the death penalty.  Filmmakers Christopher S. Rech and Brandon Kimber bring this story to such vivid and potent life, moreso thanks to reenactments of the crime.

Additionally, the interviews with both Porter and Alstory, plus archival footage of a forced confession, and other factors that were arranged to put the guilt of the two murders on Alstory is just sickening, being honest.  To know Protess, Ciolino, Rimland and others were manipulated so badly by Protess is mind-boggling.  The only sense of justice one gets from this is that, in part, the information revealed in this documentary caused the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to reopen the investigation in 2013.  Thankfully, that move ended up being a serious piece of good news for Alstory Simon, whose life was turned upside down by Protess and his team of liars.

This, again, is a film that will make you feel the indignation of a falsely accused man, anger at those who created the lies, and relief that there is some good that came from this. But it also shines that uncomfortable light on those who seek to cover justice up for the sake of trying to cover themselves.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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