‘Killer poet’ Norman Porter files for medical parole

Norman Porter is trying again to get out of prison.

Porter’s attorney has filed a request to release the aging career criminal on medical parole, as the COVID-19 crisis sweeps through the state.

I have been following Norman Porter’s case for 20 years.

If you are not familiar with this fascinating case, here is a brief synopsis.

Norman Porter was arrested for the death of 21-year-old John Pigott during a Saugus robbery in 1960.

Pigott was a store clerk and was shot to death with a sawed-off shotgun.

In 1961, while incarcerated at the Middlesex County Jail awaiting trial for the Pigott murder, Porter participated in a violent escape with an accused cop killer.

During the escape, Jail Master David Robinson was shot and killed.

Norman Porter was eventually convicted of second-degree murder for his role in both murders and sentenced to life.

Porter spent much of his prison time taking classes, earning degrees, and counseling other inmates.

He attracted the attention of prison reformers.

In 1975, then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis commuted Porter’s life sentence for the David Robinson murder.

Porter then began serving his life sentence for the Pigott murder, hoping he would again get a Governor’s Pardon.

Ten years later, though, Porter was still in prison and likely sensing that second pardon would never come.

So, in 1985, Norman Porter failed to return from his weekend furlough.

He was gone so long, some referred to him as the “Other Whitey Bulger.” Indeed, Porter was a fugitive longer than the South Boston mob boss.

The Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section eventually found Norman Porter in Chicago, where he was living a double life under the name “JJ Jameson,” a local activist and poet.

This is where the nickname Killer Poet comes from.

Porter was hauled back to Massachusetts, given three years for the 1985 escape, and resumed serving the life sentence for Jackie Pigott’s murder.

Norman Porter has appeared before the State Parole Board three times, and three times his bid for freedom has been denied.

In November 2019, five months ago, the State Parole Board wrote in its denial, “It is the opinion of the Board that Norman Porter has yet to demonstrate a level of rehabilitation that is compatible with the welfare of society.”

Now, just a few short months later, Porter is using the recently enacted medical parole provision of state law to get out.

Thomas Herman is Norman Porter’s lawyer.

He told me Norman is 80 years old and disabled, suffering from severe heart and lung issues.

The COVID-19 crisis, Herman tells me, puts Porter at risk of infection.

He is petitioning the Department of Correction for Norman’s release.

“This is not an end of life petition,” Herman told me. “Although, given his susceptibility to the virus, he is at high risk with heart and lung disease. So, we’d hate to see the sentence he is serving now, become a death sentence.”

The families of Norman Porter’s victims have fought against his release every step of the way, advocating for their loved ones at parole hearings.

They remain opposed to Porter’s release now.

“I believe that he deserves (life in prison for) what he has done and he needs to pay for the crimes he committed: taking two lives, impacting so many families. The pain and anguish have not gone away” said Dottie Johnson, cousin of murder victim Jackie Pigott.

The Essex County DA is opposing Norman Porter’s petition for medical parole. The office is planning to file papers arguing against his release by the Monday, May 4 deadline.

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