Mass. court rejects appeal by killer who became poet while on lam in Chicago for 2 decades

The state's highest court on Friday rejected an appeal filed by a convicted killer who escaped from a Massachusetts jail and spent 20 years as an activist and poet in Illinois before being sent back to prison in 2005.

Norman Porter Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the 1960s shooting deaths of a store clerk during a robbery and a jail guard. Porter escaped in 1985 and fled to Chicago, where he published a poetry book and was a lecturer at a local church.

Porter argued that he was entitled to an automatic review of his conviction by the state Supreme Judicial Court.

In a ruling Friday, the court rejected the argument, because Porter pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Only defendants convicted of first-degree murder are entitled to such reviews. The court said the appropriate way for Porter to challenge his guilty plea would be to file a motion for a new trial.

Porter pleaded guilty in the murders of James Pigott, a 22-year-old store clerk who was shot to death during a clothing store robbery in Saugus, and David S. Robinson, a Middlesex County jail officer who was shot when Porter and another inmate escaped from jail while awaiting trial for Pigott's murder.

He received two life sentences. In 1975, Gov. Michael Dukakis commuted his sentence in the Robinson case.

Ten years later, after a failed bid to have his second sentence commuted, Porter walked away from a prerelease center and went to Chicago, where he assumed the name Jacob "J.J." Jameson and became known as a poet, community activist and anti-war protester. He was arrested in Chicago in 1985, pleaded guilty to an escape charge and was sentenced to three more years.

In January, the Massachusetts Parole Board rejected Porter's request for parole.