Three Prisoners Get a Second Chance
Three men – in Illinois and North Carolina – were given a second chance to prove their innocence this week.
Yesterday, a Chicago judge granted a new trial to Jacques Rivera, who was convicted of murder in 1988 after the sole witness recanted his testimony and recently admitted he fingered the wrong man,
reported the Chicago Sun-Times
. The Center on Wrongful Convictions, a member of the Innocence Network, represents Rivera.
The witness was 12-years-old at the time of the murder and doesn’t stand to gain anything by coming forward with his recantation now. Rivera has served 21 years of the 80-year sentence for the murder he says he did not commit. The victim in the case also identified another man in the crime before he died. Rivera will remain at Cook County Jail while he awaits a decision from the prosecutors on how to proceed.
In North Carolina, the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission is reviewing the case of two men who pleaded guilty to murder for fear of landing on death row.
Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxsin pled guilty to second-degree murder in a 2000 home invasion,
reported the Associated Press
. Despite maintaining their innocence before and after their pleas, the men say they felt pressured by their attorneys and families to make a deal to escape the death penalty.
Several gunman wearing bandanas stormed into the victims home when a shot went off during the botched robbery.
Kagonyera and Wilcoxsin were among six men who were charged in the home invasion—five pleaded guilty and charges against the sixth man were dropped. Three men have already served their time and been released.
In 2003, a federal prisoner confessed to the crime and named two different people who participated in the home invasion. DNA found on a bandanna worn by one of the perpetrators matched one of the new suspects — not the men who were originally charged with the crime.
It could take more than a week for both sides to complete testimony and the judges to rule on the case. The panel has the power to throw out the convictions, but the ruling has to be unanimous for that to happen.
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