Thaddeus Jimenez was just 13 years old in 1993 when he was arrested in Chicago for a shooting murder he swore he didn’t commit. He spent 16 years in prison before he was freed on Friday due to new evidence that another man committed the murder.
Despite evidence at his trial that another man had committed the crime, Jimenez was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison. His conviction was overturned on appeal, but he was convicted again by a jury in 1997 and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Attorneys at the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago have been working on Jimenez’s appeals for more than three years with pro bono attorneys from the firm Muchin Rosenman. Although courts had already reviewed a confession by another man and other strong evidence of innocence, Jimenez’s legal team presented prosecutors with further evidence in 2007 and the case was reopened. The investigation culminated on Friday when a judge overturned Jimenez’s conviction and ordered him freed.
He walked out of Hill Correctional Facility a free man for the first time since he was 13 years old.
“When I first reviewed TJ’s letter, I was floored that he had ever been convicted of this crime…There were so many red flags pointing the police and prosecutors in the direction of this true perpetrator” at the time of the crime, says Center on Wrongful Convictions Legal Director Steve Drizin. “We had to do that again, 16 years later. We located the true perpetrator, we have a picture and an address to the State’s Attorney’s office and, to their credit, they followed up on that information and they arrested him.”
Young people are particularly susceptible to wrongful convictions. One-third of the 237 people exonerated by DNA testing were arrested before their 22nd birthday.
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