Ciolino v. SimonAnnotate this Case
Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism’s “Innocence Project” sought to exonerate Porter for two 1982 murders. Ciolino, a private investigator working with the Project, obtained a videotaped confession from Simon. Porter’s conviction was vacated. Simon pleaded guilty to the murders and was sentenced to 37 years in prison. Porter’s exoneration is regarded as the impetus for the Illinois death penalty moratorium. The tactics Ciolino used to obtain Simon’s confession came under scrutiny. It was alleged that Ciolino promised Simon that he would secure an attorney, Rimland, to represent him. Rimland shared office space with Ciolino and did not challenge Simon’s confession or present other evidence to the court. Ekl began representing Simon and filed a successive post-conviction petition asserting actual innocence. Two witnesses recanted their statements, indicating that those statements were induced by promises made by the Project. The circuit court vacated Simon’s convictions after Simon had served 15 years in prison. In 2015, Crawford published a book, Justice Perverted: How the Innocence Project … Sent an Innocent Man to Prison, which inspired the documentary at issue—Murder in the Park, in which Ekl allegedly made defamatory statements concerning Ciolino.
Ciolino’s suit, alleging defamation, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy, was dismissed as barred by the one-year statute of limitations. Except as against one defendant, the appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the reinstatement of the claims against Ekl. Because the screenings of the documentary each constituted a separate publication of the allegedly defamatory material, the single-publication rule does not apply. Following the documentary's Chicago screening, Ciolino timely filed his complaint.