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Norman A. PORTER Jr.






A.K.A.: "J.J. Jameson" - "The Killer Poet"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Escape
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1960 / 1961
Date of arrest: March 22, 2005
Date of birth: 1939
Victims profile: John Pigott, 22 (clothing store clerk) / David S. Robinson (jailer)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment 1962. Escape 1985. Arrest 2005
photo gallery

J. J. Jameson (also known as Norman A. Porter, Jr.) was a self-proclaimed poet and activist in Chicago, Illinois from the mid-1980s until March 2005. His work was marked by an ironic and humorous cast. In 1993 Jameson was arrested on theft charges in Chicago.

He was known for his live performances as a poet and MC at local poetry jams and open mike nights. He also received attention for his September 1999 poetry chapbook, Lady Rutherford's Cauliflower, published by Puddin'head Press, which had been planning to publish a second volume of his work this year. He was known to be suffering from head tumors in early 2005.

In March 2005 Jameson was named Poet of the Month by C. J. Laity of Friends and acquaintances planned to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his arrival in Chicago with a roast and poetry reading later in 2005.

On March 22, 2005 at 11:00 he was arrested by the Massachusetts State Police, Illinois State Police and the Massachusetts Department of Correction in Chicago at the Third Unitarian Church, where he was a member of the congregation and sometimes worked as a handyman. JJ was then transferred under armed guard to Massachusetts where he faced charges of escape from a penal institution. His real name is Norman A. Porter, Jr.

Porter pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder in the 1960 fatal shooting of twenty-two year old part-time clothing store clerk, John Pigott, at the Robert Hall clothing store in Saugus, Massachusetts with a sawed-off shotgun.

In 1961, while awaiting trial on those charges, Porter was involved in the fatal assault in and shooting of the head jailer, David S. Robinson, at Middlesex County jail in Cambridge, Massachusetts and escaped from prison only to be captured while holding up a grocery store in New Hampshire. He also pled guilty to charges of second-degree murder in that case, and was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment.

While in prison, Porter earned an undergraduate degree from Boston University, started a prison newspaper, published poetry, and founded a prison radio station. One of his life sentences was commuted by Governor Michael Dukakis in 1975.

In December 1985, while being held at a prerelease center, he escaped by signing himself out for a walk, and never returned to the facility until he was caught on March 22. Since his escape, he has been Massachusetts' most wanted fugitive, ahead of mobster boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

Jameson was connected with Porter when fingerprints taken during his 1993 arrest were matched against Porter's fingerprints in an FBI database after a police officer saw his picture as Poet of the Month on In Massachusetts, conviction on charges of escape from a penal institution carries a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment.

On October 14, 2005, Porter was sentenced to three years in prison for his escape. He is eligible for parole for his murder charge in 2010.

The 2008 film Killer Poet, produced by Northern Light Productions, documented the Norman Porter story.

Porter was denied parole by the Massachusetts Parole Board on January 12, 2010. Despite the support of prison officials and members of a Chicago church congregation, the parole board rejected Porter's request because he showed "limited remorse" and "continues to minimize his criminal activity".


Tracking a Mass. murder mystery

Local filmmaker shares the journey

By Leslie Brokaw - The Boston Globe

June 8, 2008

In 2005, a 20-year quest to track down one of Massachusetts's longest-wanted criminals, Norman Porter Jr., came to an end. As ends often do, it opened a new chapter - the "now what?" phase - that gets a careful investigation in Rowley director-producer Susan Gray's new film, "Killer Poet."

Porter had been convicted of two murders that took place in Lynn and East Cambridge in 1960 and 1961 and had spent 25 years in jail when he escaped from a pre-release center in 1985. He then joined the 2 percent of escapees who aren't apprehended; from the perspective of law-enforcement officials, he vanished.

He hadn't, of course. He'd taken a bus to Chicago, picked a new name for himself - JJ Jameson - and built a new life. It was his first life outside of prison as an adult, and over the course of nearly 20 years he made friends, started a day-care center, did political organizing, wrote and published poetry.

In 2005, Porter was apprehended after fingerprints from a 1993 arrest for theft matched his prints under his real name. He's now back in Massachusetts in a maximum-security prison.

Those are the basic outlines of Gray's movie, but at its core is an exploration of redemption. Do you buy Porter's contention, voiced toward the end of the film, that "you stand or fall on who you are at that moment"? Or do you believe, as one of Porter's Chicago friends puts it, that "when Norman Porter's life caught up with JJ Jameson's, Norman Porter's had to win"?

The movie hears from people on both sides. There's Claire Wilcox, who had been engaged to Jackie Pigott when he was shot during a store robbery in 1960. There's Peter Robinson, nephew of David Robinson Sr., the jail master at the East Cambridge jail who was shot in 1961 during a (short-lived) breakout by Porter and another prisoner. There are law-enforcement officials who devoted large chunks of their careers to tracking down Porter.

There's also the Rev. Donald Wheat, minister emeritus of the Third Unitarian Church in Chicago, where Porter-as-Jameson started a day-care center and was serving as chairman of the trustees at the time of his capture. There are Porter's friends in the Chicago art scene, where Porter established himself as a colorful, useful, and beloved - if sometimes volatile - spirit.

Most critically, the movie hears from Porter himself. After years of persistent requests to prison officials, Gray was finally able to arrange an on-tape interview with Porter last November.

"I'd had one visit with him, and then one year later a second interview, and then we were at the end of making the movie but had never heard from the main character," says Gray. A change in rules governing maximum-security facilities allowed recording devices on a case-by-case basis. She got one hour.

"At the second visit, I think he felt a little betrayed when he heard that I had talked to the victims' families and the cops," Gray says, but Porter's lawyers convinced him that it would be in his interest to talk to her even if the movie wouldn't be just his story.

And it's not. The film has extensive footage of Porter's capture in Chicago, and of his court appearance in Dedham in September 2005, where friends and families of the victims got to make their cases about his future.

The Dedham hearing is where Gray began her filming.

"That hearing became a judgment on his life," says Gray. "Both sides were weighing in and the judge was in the role of playing God, deciding whether [Porter] would be let out or would die in prison."

Gray was drawn to the project, she says, partly because it was so high profile in the Boston area for so long, but mostly it touches on so many big issues: the prison system, the way politics weighs in on decisions, how reform works or doesn't work in this country.

"People ask me, 'Why Norman Porter? Why look at an escaped convict? Why not look at someone who was falsely convicted?' " says Gray. The first reason she cites is that Porter seemed more representative of people who are in jail for murder - "he was a punk kid from Woburn who was stealing cars and robbing."

The second reason, she says, is that after 25 years in jail, "he was out for 20 years and you could see the evidence: It appears he didn't commit any violent crimes, it seems he was rehabilitated, it seems he did a lot of good. And it raises the question: Should he still be in prison?"

"Killer Poet" was produced by Northern Light Productions, an Allston company with two other films in theaters. "The Singing Revolution" is about the Estonian resistance movement, which used song to protest Soviet occupation in the late 1980s, and is playing at the Kendall Square Cinema through Thursday. "The Dhamma Brothers," about death-row prisoners who get introduced to Buddhism and meditation, was at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in May and the West Newton Cinema last week.

The company is also at work on a movie about the record "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison."

Porter now lives in a maximum-security facility, where he spends 23 hours a day in his cell. "I asked him about what life is like there but he wouldn't talk about [it]," Gray says. "He's very proud. He talks about the books he reads."


Murderer's arrest ends fugitive life as Chicago poet

Convict escaped from Mass. in '85

By Donovan Slack and Eric Ferkenhoff - The Boston Globe

March 23, 2005

In Chicago, he is one of the city's most beloved antiwar poets, an author of two books and a congregation leader at a West Side church. But in Massachusetts, he is notorious for executing a clerk at a Saugus clothing store in 1960, aiding in the murder of a Middlesex County jailer in 1961, and then escaping from a Norfolk County correction center in 1985.

Yesterday, his past and Massachusetts authorities caught up with Norman A. Porter Jr.

Now 65, the man on the ''Most Wanted" list has been living in Chicago for at least a decade as Jacob Jameson. As J.J. Jameson, he has been a frequent performer at Chicago lounges and was named's poet of the month in March 2004.

Illinois State Police arrested Porter about 11:30 a.m. in a Chicago church after a monthlong investigation, triggered by an FBI fingerprint search that matched Porter with the poet. Investigators from the Massachusetts State Police aided in the apprehension and said Porter did not put up a fight.

''He told us the same thing he told the Illinois State Police, that 'I had a good 20 years,' " said Detective Lieutenant Kevin Horton, one of the Massachusetts investigators. Horton said Porter acknowledged who he is and ''said he was expecting this day to come."

After an extradition hearing today in Chicago, Porter is expected to be returned to Massachusetts, where he has been indicted on a felony charge of prison escape and faces additional penalties for parole violations. Prison escape carries a 10-year maximum penalty, in addition to whatever remains on a convict's sentence. For Porter, that sentence is life.

His life in Chicago held few clues of his criminal past, save perhaps a verse or two from a poem. One, listed on, is called ''Thoreau's Grave."

''His grave is outside a walled prison. His grave, his grave, wrapped around a prison. A quiet desperation he would not have understood," Porter reads on an audio file on the website.

One neighbor in Chicago said she nearly fell off her couch when news reports identified Porter as a fugitive.

''He was a beautiful person," said 48-year-old Debra Selby, who lives across the street from the apartment where Porter was living. ''He helped a lot of people. Whatever you needed, he did. You went to him, you talked to him, and he made it happen."

Porter's criminal history in Massachusetts began with a string of robberies. On Sept. 29, 1960, he robbed a Robert Hall Clothing Store in Saugus, brandishing a sawed-off shotgun. Porter herded customers and employees into a back room and ordered them to give up their valuables, according to the state Department of Correction.

''As a part-time clerk was reaching into his pocket for his cash, Porter, with no known provocation, placed his shotgun's muzzle against the back of the clerk's head and pulled the trigger, killing him 'execution style,' " the department's website states.

Porter was caught in New York, and while awaiting trial in a Middlesex County jail the following year, Porter assaulted the chief jailer, while an accomplice, Edgar Cook, shot and killed the jailer. Both escaped. Cook committed suicide, and Porter was caught a week later in Keene, N.H., while he was robbing a grocery store, the Correction Department's website says.

Porter pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in both slayings and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

During his time in prison, Porter earned a degree from Boston University, published poetry, and started a prison newspaper and radio station.

In 1975, Governor Michael S. Dukakis commuted Porter's first life sentence, and he began serving his second sentence. Dukakis tried twice in 1978 to commute that sentence, as well, but was unsuccessful.

On Dec. 21, 1985, Porter walked out of a minimum-security facility, the Norfolk Prerelease Center, and didn't come back. He has been one of the 12 most wanted fugitives in Massachusetts ever since.

Records show he has been living in the Chicago area for at least the past decade. Friends said he has been in the Chicago area since his escape.

In 1999, a Chicago press published his "Lady Rutherfurd's Cauliflower," a well-received book of poetry that has gone into multiple printings, according to He later published a second book, ''Lord Rutherfurd's Rutabaga."

A biography on the website says Porter is ''a New Englander by birth, a progressive by politics, labor activist by ethical necessity, and a working man by trade." He is a labor-rights activist who has appeared on local radio and television programs, as well as on stages around the city, according to the biography.

During his time as a fugitive, Porter had run-ins with the law at least five times, including once in Washington state and three times in the Chicago area, according to a Massachusetts law enforcement official involved in the investigation.

In 1989 -- as Jacob A. Jameson of LaGrange, Ill. -- he was arrested and charged with drunken driving and driving without a license. In 1990 or 1991, he was arrested and charged with shoplifting in Olympia, Wash., said the law enforcement official.

In 1993, he was arrested, fingerprinted, and charged with theft after he allegedly wrote a check to a handyman that bounced, a case that was later dismissed, according to Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's office. That same year, he was arrested on a warrant on a fleeing offense, though the law enforcement official could not provide details.

Within the next year, Porter was pulled over by police and cited for driving without a license again. This time, he gave a Maywood, Ill., address, and because authorities did not have a Jacob Jameson at that address in their records, they created a file for him, according to the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

At some point last month, FBI investigators running Porter's fingerprints through a database came up with a match to the 1993 theft arrest, according to the law enforcement official. FBI investigators notified the Massachusetts Department of Correction, which notified State Police, and the hunt for Porter began anew.

After running Porter's alias, Jameson, through Internet searches, investigators discovered their fugitive was an established poet who also had ties to a progressive Unitarian church on Chicago's West Side.

Horton, the State Police Investigator, was at a loss yesterday to explain why, after trying to run Porter's prints for all these years, authorities finally got a match.

''We don't know," he said. Illinois officials could not immediately say yesterday when the state began putting fingerprints of all known criminals into a nationwide database.

Three Massachusetts State Police investigators and three Department of Correction officials arrived in Chicago Sunday and turned up nothing. Yesterday, they decided to go to the Third Unitarian Church.

''Honest to God, he just walked in," Horton said.

Horton said Porter is not married and ''looks like a sick old man who hasn't eaten a good meal in about 10 years."

Horton described Porter's home, a tiny second-floor apartment across the street from the church, as a wreck.

''He was living like a pig," Horton said, adding there was dog feces on the floor and clothes strewn about. ''It was a mess."

Selby, Porter's neighbor, said Porter helped run a food pantry and helped out with the homeless at the church. He was also the church historian and helped arrange a memorial for Selby's 15-year-old son, who died in 2002 of a seizure disorder.

''It's unbelievable," she said about his criminal past. ''He appeared on the news, and I thought, 'Ah, no, this can't be this man.' "

Gordon T. Walker of Boston, Porter's longtime attorney, said Porter has called three or four times over the past two decades just to say hello.

Yesterday, Porter tracked down Walker's cellphone number and called to say that he had been caught and that he will waive extradition and be back in Massachusetts by tonight.

''He sounded a little relieved, actually," Walker said, ''and resigned."


Killer/escapee Norman Porter Jr. found living as poet in Chicago

Daily Times Chronicle

CHICAGO - Woburn native, two-time convicted murderer and three-time Mass. prison escapee Norman Porter is back in custody in Illinois today after being captured by Mass. State Police and Illinois authorities at a church yesterday.

Porter, 65, who lived on Garden Street in West Woburn, has been in the news since 1960 when he killed a Robert Hall salesman on Route 1 and later a superintendent/security guard at the East Cambridge courthouse in a successful escape.

Woburn police have been well aware of his presence going on nearly a half-century, as his escapes and escapades always brought out surveillance of the Porter family home, friends and individuals in the city. He at times has vowed retribution on Woburn police for their role in incidents before and after his three-times being captured.

At various times, he has also threatened Woburn police who arrested him in prior incidents.

His last escape from a minimum-security situation at Norfolk MCI also put him 1-2 with the notorious James "Whitey" Bulger as Massachusetts "Most Wanted" criminal.

He is facing an extradition hearing on Wednesday but is expected back in the state shortly.

In Chicago, Porter is known as Jacob "J.J." Jameson, a poet and anti-war protester devoted to his local Unitarian church.

Porter's double life crumbled and his 20-year flight from justice ended in Chicago on Tuesday morning, when undercover police investigators arrested him in the offices of the Third Unitarian Church, police said.

His apprehension stunned friends, who said they had no inkling that the 65-year-old was running from a violent past.

"He had us all fooled," said C.J. Laity, who knew Porter from poetry readings. "I've known him for many, many years. Obviously, I didn't know him as well as I thought."

Porter's whereabouts have been a mystery to police since he walked away from a pre-release center in Norfolk in December 1985. Ever since his escape, he has been at the top of the Massachusetts State Police's "Most Wanted" list, ahead of fugitive mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

In 1960, at age 21, Porter shot and killed John Pigott, a 22-year-old store clerk, during a robbery of the former Robert Hall clothing store in Saugus.

While he was awaiting trial, Porter and another inmate escaped from the Middlesex County Jail in Cambridge. During the escape, they overpowered the jail master, David S. Robinson, then shot and killed him with a smuggled gun.

Porter, who wasn't accused of pulling the trigger in Robinson's killing, eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in both cases and was sentenced to consecutive life terms. However, in 1975, then-Gov. Michael Dukakis commuted one of those sentences.

During his 26 years behind bars, Porter earned his high school diploma and was working toward a college degree. He escaped after he was transferred to a minimum security facility.

Porter's friends in Chicago said he has been living in the city for the past 20 years.

About a month ago, however, a tipster reportedly contacted the Massachusetts State Police and said Porter was living in the Chicago area.

Investigators checked a database and matched Porter's fingerprints to his 1993 arrest on theft charges in Chicago. He used the Jameson alias when he was arrested 12 years ago. Police also ran an Internet search on Jameson and found references to his poetry.

Porter acknowledged his real identity when police arrested him, saying, "I had a good 20 years," according to Detective Lt. Kevin Horton of the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension unit.

Porter was arrested without incident when police found him at the church late Tuesday morning, said Illinois State Police Lt. Lincoln Hampton.

"Our guys told me he was very cooperative," Hampton said.

Porter is scheduled to appear in a Chicago courtroom Wednesday for an extradition hearing.

In the meantime, his Chicago friends are searching their memories for any missed clues that could have pointed to Porter's past.

Charles Paidock said he met Porter more than a decade ago, at a forum on free speech and other social issues. He knew little about Porter's past, other than he was from New England and said he had a grown daughter.

"I've always known him to be a perfect gentleman, quite active in the community," Paidock said. "

Earlier this year, Porter's friends planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his move to Chicago with a roast and poetry reading. But he was sick and had to be taken to a hospital, friends said., a web site run by Laity, recently named Jameson its Poet of the Month.

Marc Kelly Smith said he knew Porter from his poetry readings at the Green Mill, a well-known Chicago jazz club.

"He's kind of an eccentric guy... a really out-there cat," Smith said. "He always gave me the impression he was an old anarchist from the '60s."

Paidock, who was working on a play with Porter, said he never saw anything in his friend to suggest a violent past.

"This is absolutely a complete and total shock," he said.

State Police

Massachusetts State Police said it was at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday when the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Office of Investigative Services Fugitive Apprehension Unit collaboratively arrested Porter in Chicago.

The Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Department of Correction and the Illinois State Police working on several leads arrested Porter at the Third Unitarian Church in Chicago "without incident."

In December 1985, the State Police noted, Porter escaped from a State Correctional Facility in Norfolk. At the time of his escape, he was serving two life sentences for murder.

"I applaud the mutual determination of the State Police and the Department of Correction in apprehending this violent offender and placing him back in our custody," said State Police Commissioner Kathleen M. Dennehy. Department of Correction Captain Edward McGonagle, Lt. Joseph Pepe, Lt. Paul Devlin and Massachusetts State Police Detective Lt. Kevin Horton and Sgt. Timothy Luce all participated in the arrest of Porter. Porter is currently being held at the Cook County Jail pending arraignment at the Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning.

"The State Police are committed to working in partnership with other public safety agencies to ensure the safety of all citizens", said Colonel Thomas G. Robbins.

Rap Sheet

The Massachusetts State Police released the following rap sheet on Porter immediately after his arrest:

Norman Arthur Porter, Jr. is wanted by the Massachusetts Department of Correction Fugitive Section and the Massachusetts State Police, Fugitive Section for Escapee.

On 09-29-60, at approximately 8:40 PM, Norman A. Porter, Jr. and Theodore F. Mayor entered the Robert Hall Clothing Store in Saugus "masked," with Porter brandishing a sawed-off shotgun and Mayor a revolver. They herded all of the customers and employees into the back room and while Mayor was trying to get the manager to open the safe after taking all of the cash from the registers, Porter was ordering all of the other victims to place their wallets and other valuables in a coat that was being circulated around.

As a part-time clerk was reaching into his pocket for his cash, Porter with no known provocation, placed his shotgun's muzzle against the back of the clerk's head and pulled the trigger killing him "execution style." Porter subsequently absconded to New York and was apprehended there a short lime after the murder.

While awaiting trial for the murder and robbery at Middlesex County Jail, Cambridge, on May 14, 1961, Porter and Edgar Cook, who was also awaiting trial for murder, escaped from the jail and in the process Porter and Cook physically assaulted the Master and Keeper of the Middlesex Jail (who was a Sheriff) and shot him to death with a gun that was smuggled into the facility.

Two days after the escape, Cook was located by police in the Back Bay Section of Boston, where he chose suicide over recapture. Porter was apprehended a week after the escape in Keene, NH while he was in the process of robbing a grocery store. Porter "PLED GUILTY" to both the shotgun slaying of the Robert Hall Clothing clerk and the Sheriff's murder, and was sentenced to two (2) consecutive life sentences (2nd degree). Porter received two concurrent life sentences (2nd degree) for armed robberies.

While in prison, Porter was awarded an undergraduate's degree from Boston University, published poetry, founded a prison newspaper and radio station and became the "darling" and "poster child" of the progressive and reform-minded academic community. In 1975, Porter's first life sentence was commuted by the then Governor and he began to serve his second sentence.

In September of 1985, Porter was transferred to Norfolk Pre-Release Center, a minimum security and work-release facility located 35 miles southwest of Boston. Porter worked as a maintenance cadre/trustee on the prison grounds, and on December 21, 1985 after serving 26 years in prison, Porter escaped.

Porter has been on the Massachusetts State Police "MOST WANTED" list since his escape. The Most Wanted poster considered Porter to be extremely dangerous and manipulative.


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