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
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
ChicagoPoetry.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ChicagoPoetry.com. In Massachusetts, conviction
on charges of escape from a penal institution carries a sentence
of up to ten years imprisonment.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
Convict escaped from Mass. in '85
By Donovan Slack and Eric Ferkenhoff - The
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 Chicagopoetry.com'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 e-poets.net, 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
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
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
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 e-poets.net. 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
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
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
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
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
''He sounded a little relieved, actually,"
Walker said, ''and resigned."
Killer/escapee Norman Porter Jr. found living as poet in
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
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
"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
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,"
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.
Chicagopoetry.com, 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,"
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
"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.
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
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
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
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.