The Victim Protests | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Victim Protests 

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[Re: Hot Type, November 15 and 29]

The last time I wrote you was in 1993, requesting your assistance in investigating the case for which I was wrongfully convicted and twice sentenced to die. You didn't listen.

Now I've read two columns by Michael Miner that are filled with problems that have nothing to do with justice but everything to do with people's false claims of credit for finally setting me free.

Let's start with Rene Brown. In the 18 years that I was on death row, I never received a letter from Mr. Brown, nor was he a witness in any court proceeding relevant to my case. Yet the first day I saw Mr. Brown after finally being freed, all he could talk about was how "Dave Protess was full of shit." He also said that I should join him in "setting up a movie deal with Spike Lee," but no such deal ever materialized.

When I subsequently wouldn't listen to Brown's attacks on Dave Protess--the person who spearheaded the chain of events that led to freedom for me and three of my friends--Brown elected to bring his self-aggrandizing, unfounded gripes to the media. For the first time in 18 years, the Reader listened!

Now to Jenner & Block, who I wrote three times over the years pleading for legal assistance so that I would not go to my death an innocent man. No one was willing to take my case until Dave Protess persuaded Robert Byman and James Thompson to help me. After these lawyers drafted pleadings that simply reflected Protess's investigative work, they then sought public credit for freeing me. Byman didn't get as much as he wanted, and Thompson got none. But both lawyers were willing to talk with Michael Miner about their disagreements with Protess, and Thompson had the nerve to contradict my view of the case without first discussing it with me, his own client.

Finally, to Protess's former journalism students. I deeply appreciate the interest of the three young women who worked on our case, but their interest transcended justice as soon as Hollywood got involved. The only time they contacted me after they graduated was when they wanted to advance their own personal interests. One became upset when the four of us wouldn't do the Oprah show with them, and we haven't heard from any of them since. But Michael Miner talked to at least one of the women, and he printed what she had to say, while not quoting my response in his latest column.

Miner devoted more time and effort to reporting about who did what to secure our freedom than enlightening his readers about how dangerously corrupt our legal system is. Until now, I had no desire to respond to misguided news accounts on the Ford Heights Four saga.

However, I now feel compelled to attempt to set the record straight: Had it not been for Dave Protess, and Rob Warden, I would still be behind bars this very moment, sadly pondering my certain murder at the hands of the state.

Dennis Williams

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