Juan Rivera was first convicted in 1993 of raping and killing an 11-year girl in a Chicago suburb. His conviction has been thrown out twice since then. But despite DNA tests excluding him from important crime scene evidence, a strong alibi, and serious questions about a confession he allegedly made to police, Rivera is expected to face a third trial beginning next week.
Rivera became a suspect after the 1992 murder despite the fact that he had a previous conviction and was wearing an ankle monitor that showed he never left home on the day of the crime. Police interrogated Rivera, who has an IQ of 79, for 39 hours over four days, including one continuous span of 26 hours. During the interrogation, he had a mental breakdown and was put on anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety drugs. Officers say Rivera eventually confessed to the crime, and he signed a typewritten confession.
In 2005, DNA testing obtained by the Center on Wrongful Convictions showed that semen on the victim’s body did not come from Rivera. Prosecutors are expected to argue at Rivera’s third trial that either the 11-year-old victim was sexually active at the time of the crime or that the biological evidence was contaminated.
Rivera’s lawyers told the Chicago Tribune they were surprised he would be tried a third time despite mounting evidence of innocence.
"This was a crime scene rich with forensic evidence: blood, hair, fingerprints, semen, of course, fibers. You name it," said Jeffrey Urdangen, one of Rivera's lawyers. "The number of articles they've connected to Juan Rivera? Zero."
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. (Chicago Tribune, 4/12/09)