Street Smart Chicago

Crossing Lines: What’s Wrong with the Wrongful Conviction Movement

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022014By Martin Preib

Wrongful conviction settlements are big business, but they are not always sensible. Chicago settles millions of dollars in cases where convicted offenders claim they were wrongfully convicted.

For a number of law firms, suing the city over wrongful convictions has become a kind of cottage industry. Inmates claim they were tortured and coerced into confessing. The offenders are freed from prison. Attorneys quickly initiate civil lawsuits against the city. Many people assume that a settlement signifies the police were culpable and had something to hide.

But this is not the truth in several key wrongful conviction cases, none more so than the Anthony Porter case, a double murder in 1982 in Washington Park on the South Side.

“I got accused of certain things I didn’t do,” says Charles Salvatore, a lead detective in the Porter case. “I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this.”

In this case and many others, cops long for the opportunity to explain their investigation in civil court, even if accused of torture and coercion. Detectives want to retain their good name, and prevent the city from paying millions to murderers. The decision to settle, though, is out of the detectives’ hands.

When, in 1999, former Governor George Ryan watched news coverage of Anthony Porter’s alleged wrongful conviction by a Northwestern University investigation, it compelled him to place a moratorium on the death penalty (which stayed until Governor Quinn later abolished the death penalty). The Porter case continues to set the precedent for wrongful conviction cases in Illinois.

As a police officer currently employed by the City of Chicago, I have a unique perspective on wrongful conviction cases. Although I had no involvement with the Anthony Porter case, learning about its three-decade history has made me question the assumptions about wrongful convictions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: “Walk on the Wild Side” Changed Everything

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is a very expensive steakhouse in Brooklyn called Peter Luger’s that, for more than a hundred years, has served what’s thought to be the best steak in New York, or the country for that matter. And when you eat their beef, it is hard to argue with this appraisal. It melts in your mouth. It is perfectly seasoned and cooked at a very high temperature in butter. The Luger’s steak is delicious. No argument. The service leaves a lot to be desired, though: snotty old Kraut waiters, a long wait even when you have a reservation, and the light so bright, you’d think you were in an operating room.

For many of the years that I knew Lou Reed, this was his favorite steak and we ate a lot of it. We’d often go with a big group, five or six people at least. Luger’s was less likely to fuck you around if it was a big table. Over the years, Lou brought Salman Rushdie, Hal Willner, the musical genius, Laurie Anderson and a host of dudes from his tai-chi classes, including the instructor. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): A woman from New Mexico wrote to tell me that after reading my horoscopes for three years in the Santa Fe Reporter, she had decided to stop. “I changed my beliefs,” she said. “I no longer resonate with your philosophy.” On the one hand, I was sad that I had lost a reader. On the other hand, I admired her for being able to transform her beliefs, and also for taking practical action to enforce her shift in perspective. That’s the kind of purposeful metamorphosis I recommend for you, Aries. What ideas are you ready to shed? What theories no longer explain the nature of life to your satisfaction? Be ruthless in cutting away the thoughts that no longer work for you. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In her TED talk, science writer Mary Roach made it clear that human beings don’t need genital stimulation to experience orgasms. She spoke of a woman who routinely reaches ecstatic climax by having her eyebrows caressed, and another woman who reaches the big O simply by brushing her teeth. Then there’s the woman who can simply think herself into coming, no physical touch necessary. I can’t guarantee that a similar aptitude will suddenly turn on in you, Aries, but the coming days could bring you as close as you have ever been. Right now you’re a connoisseur of deep pleasure—a blessed bliss master. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Unpleasant Memories

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By Kevin Budnik. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)Budnik_Unpleasant_Memories-WEB

Walking on the Wild Side: A Former Prostitute Recalls Life on the Street

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Illustration: Kady Dennell

Illustration: Kady Dennell

By Anonymous

I am standing in front of The Closet, a gay bar on Broadway between Addison and Belmont. It is a warm summer night. I am twenty-four. I am going to get in the first car that stops. I am a sex worker, but right now, in the 1980s, we are called prostitutes and streetwalkers. If we do it in a hotel we are call girls. Interesting how long it took for people to realize this is a job and work.

Neither the johns nor the sex workers realize that in a few years a lot of our cruising will be online. We will be using Craigslist and cell phones to screen out nuts and psychos and cops. Hopefully. But the Internet has not been invented yet. Right now, if you are selling it or buying it, you have to rely on your street sense.

When you are out here, you don’t think about the danger. For one thing, I am high as a kite on meth. These guys are rude and repulsive, but I can enjoy myself because I am high. People without addictions don’t understand that there are three highs: the high; the high of knowing you’re going to get high; and the high of doing risky things while you’re high. Read the rest of this entry »

Starry-Eyed Projections: Surprise! Newcity is Going to Make a Movie

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first made into a movie in 1910, in Chicago, by the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope Company

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was first made into a movie in 1910, in Chicago, by the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope Company

By Brian Hieggelke

Newcity is going to make a feature film. The plan is to have it finished by our thirtieth anniversary, two years from now.

Twenty-eight years ago this week, we launched this publication. It was, in retrospect, an act of extreme confidence, or hubris, depending on your perspective. (Likely both.) As founders, we were in our late teens and early twenties; not one of us had any publishing experience at all, at any level. Yet we conceived of the idea in November and, here we were, about two months later, holding in our hands the very first issue of Newcity.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Wonder of Birds

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The other night at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, an event celebrated the publication of my friend Joel Greenberg’s fascinating natural history account of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, “A Feathered River Across the Sky.” It is a remarkable book about the squandering and wholesale slaughter of a single species.

In 1860, a single flock of passenger pigeons so huge and in such great volume took two days to fly over. The estimate is something like three billion birds. So many that the sky was darkened; a phenomenon reported on many other migratory paths as well. It must have been almost unfathomable that these birds would ever NOT be in the world. A scant fifty years later, they were gone. The last one, “Martha,” died in captivity in a Cincinnati Zoo having never flown or even been in the wild. It is almost impossible to believe that this hearty species, a bird that could swallow acorns whole, could be wiped out in such short order. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “You know it’s Saturday when you are wiping off vodka stains from your face with a marshmallow,” testifies the woman who writes the Tumblr blog “French Fries Absinthe Milkshakes.” I really hope you don’t even come close to having an experience like that this week, Aries. But I’m worried that you will. I sense that you’re becoming allergic to caution. You may be subconsciously wishing to shed all decorum and renounce self-control. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with relaxing your guard. I hope you will indeed give up some of your high-stress vigilance and surrender a bit to life’s sweet chaos. Just please try to find a playful and safe and not-too-insane way to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): On my fifteenth birthday, I finally figured out that eating dairy products was the cause of my chronic respiratory problems. From that day forward, I avoided foods made from cow’s milk. My health improved. I kept up this regimen for years. But a month ago, I decided to see if my longstanding taboo still made sense. Just for the fun of it, I gave myself permission to gorge on a tub of organic vanilla yogurt. To my shock, there was no hell to pay. I was free of snot. In the last few weeks, I have feasted regularly on all the creamy goodies I’ve been missing. I bring this up, Aries, because I suspect an equally momentous shift is possible for you. Some taboo you have honored for a long time, some rule you have obeyed as if it were an axiom, is ripe to be broken. Read the rest of this entry »