Chicago cop and award-winning writer Martin Preib, author of "The Wagon and Other Stories From the City," takes on the wrongful conviction movement by re-investigating several key cases. "Crooked City" culminates in a review of the Anthony Porter exoneration for a double homicide and concludes the most influential wrongful conviction case was a fraud.
Based on dozens of interviews with Chicago detectives, Preib strives for the highest language as he wanders a macabre world in which killers are set free and the lives of honest cops are ruined.
"Crooked City" focuses on the emotional exoneration of Anthony Porter, who was wrongfully convicted for a double homicide. How did his case first come to your attention?
While I was researching the James Ealy double homicide, I became aware that there many killers who had been exonerated or gotten off through others means at the same time. I realized they were all in the county jail and they all made the same claims of police misconduct. It was clear to me that these claims were false. For example, in the Porter case, Porter said the detectives beat him. But if you look at the police documents, you see very clearly that the cops never met Porter. They only had a warrant issued for his arrest. How then, could they have beaten him? As I got to know detectives, lawyers, journalists, they told me about the Porter case. A group of us got together and started researching it together.
What was it about Anthony Porter's story that made you want to dedicate an entire book about his case?
The misconduct by wrongful conviction advocates is revealed most clearly in the Porter case. It elevates this case to a kind of allegory.
What do you hope readers take away from "Crooked City?"
I hope a lot of things. I hope that readers will become more suspicious of this wrongful conviction movement. I hope they will have a renewed respect for law enforcement and I hope they will have a clearer sense of how Chicago's corruption really works.
Since starting your career as a police officer in Chicago,
has your perspective of the city changed?
It's changed a lot. This book chronicles my change of mind.
What's the writing community like in Chicago, and how does Chicago influence your work?
I'm not really part of any writing community in Chicago. A police officer who writes is not exactly embraced here. Frankly, I'm not really interested in any community. Chicago is the main thing I write about. I'm always trying to figure out this city and my place in it.