Five Years After Exoneration, Lafonso Rollins is Giving Back
marked the anniversary of the day he walked out of an Illinois prison after serving 11 years for a rape he did not commit. Rollins was a 17-year-old special education student in the ninth grade when he was arrested, and he was convicted based largely on a false confession he had signed, but did not write. In 2004, DNA testing was finally obtained and conclusively proved Rollins’s innocence and he was released.
Rollins spoke to
about how his false confession was coerced by police. He said: “They came on hitting on me. They kept told me they were going to wring me out to dry if I didn't tell the truth… I was scared to death.” In addition to this alleged improper treatment by police, Rollins’ case was also plagued by improper forensic analysis and reporting.
In early 2006, Rollins filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago for violating his civil rights. He eventually settled for $9 million, and the city pledged to investigate whether the police officers and crime lab who handled his case had engaged in wrongdoing. Rollins said his mission now is to use his freedom to help others.
“This is not my lottery ticket or anything,” he said. “Keep in mind, the most important thing right now is for everybody to focus on that, OK, I made it, I'm free, you know what I'm saying? It's over with. Make sure the next guy doesn't go through this heat."
Since then, Rollins has used portions of his settlement money to help free the innocent and prevent wrongful convictions. He started a foundation called Right the Wrong Complications. In one of his first donations,
Rollins gave $10,000 to benefit Northern Illinois University Law School’s Innocence Project
, which had provided him pro bono legal services during his incarceration.
More recently, Rollins donated another $10,000 to the rebuilding fund of a Chicago church after he saw it burn down on television. He cited his late father, a pastor who had died during his incarnation. "My father passed, and here is a church that I can help out and here this one is," said Rollins. "I thought this would be my chance to help out.”
Other Exoneration Anniversaries
, Illinois (Served 3 Years, Exonerated 7/16/92)
, Missouri (Served 13 Years, Exonerated 7/16/96
, Kansas (Served 6.5 Years, Exonerated 7/17/92)
, South Carolina (Served 14.5 Years, Exonerated 7/20/98)
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