News 08.05.10

After Five Years in Jail, Illinois Man Is Freed

Jerry Hobbs

was freed yesterday

in Illinois after spending five years in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his daughter and another young girl, a crime for which DNA tests implicate another man. His case is an example of the vast damage that can be caused even when injustice is uncovered before trial.

Shortly after alerting police that he had discovered his daughter and a friend murdered in 2005, Hobbs was charged with the crime. He signed a written confession after a daylong police interrogation, but he soon recanted the statement, saying it had been coerced.

One year after the crime, investigators learned that DNA testing on semen from one victim’s body pointed to another unknown man. They pressed forward with charges against Hobbs, however, saying they intended to seek the death penalty. In June, the DNA profile from the crime scene implicated a man in custody in Virginia, police say, and charges were dropped yesterday against Hobbs.

Prosecutors didn’t offer an apology to Hobbs, saying they were dropping the charges because they couldn’t prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While 258 people have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing, countless others have spent months or years in prison while facing charges before they are freed. In a 1995 study of 10,000 criminal cases by the by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, suspects were excluded 25 percent of the time after DNA tests came back. While wrongful convictions are avoided in these cases, the contact with the criminal justice system and time spent behind bars is incredibly damaging to the life of an innocent individual.

The Chicago Tribune

recently examined the cases

of Hobbs and another Illinois man, Kevin Fox, who spent eight months in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his daughter before DNA tests pointed to his innocence. Unlike Fox’s case, however, Hobbs remained in prison for four years after the results came back.

False confessions play a role in more than 25 percent of wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing.

Read more about the Innocence Project recommendations to record all custodial interrogations

.

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