Last month, I circulated word about a decision by the Illinois Appellate Court reversing the conviction of Juan Rivera, a client whom a large group of Stanford Law students represented. I am delighted to report that the prosecutor announced yesterday that he would not be appealing that decision. Late yesterday afternoon, Mr. Rivera walked out of prison and breathed free air for the first time in more than 19 years.
Mr. Rivera had been convicted twice of a 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year old. The conviction was based on a confession he signed after 36 hours of tag-team questioning and while in a psychotic state. The Appellate Court found evidence that the interrogators had leaked facts to him and that the interrogators and prosecutors had then claimed that Mr. Rivera’s knowledge of these facts was proof positive of his guilt. Even after 2005 DNA tests excluded Mr. Rivera as the source of the semen associated with the rape, the prosecutors brought the case to trial a third time and again secured a conviction. The Appellate Court–taking very seriously its duty to give deference to the jury–but also engage in meaningful scrutiny of the sufficiency of the evidence–deemed it insufficient as a matter of law and decried the many years of Mr. Rivera’s wrongful incarceration.
The students who worked on the case are: Davida Brook, Chad Clark, Kara Kapp, Aaron Kurman, Rachel Marshall, Sara Mayeux, Allegra McLeod, Annie Osburne, Zoe Palitz , Michelle Parris , Patricia Pei, Nick Xenakis & Katie Young. Lawyers from Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Conviction and the Chicago office of Jenner & Block also participated in the appeal.
Please join me in applauding all of their passion and commitment.