The vast majority of us could not even being to contemplate what it must be like to be convicted of a crime and sent to prison, all the while being innocent. Unfortunately, it is far too common for some individuals who have languished away, rotting behind bars for crimes that they didn't commit.
36-year-old Jarrett Adams was one of those people, spending nearly 10 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit. When he was 17-years-old, Adams was at a party at the University of Wisconsin, where he sexual relations with a young woman. Weeks later, while he was at home in Chicago, having not thought about the incident whatsoever, he was arrested because the woman in question made a statement saying she had been raped.
Adams was extradited to Wisconsin where he was handed a court appointed attorney because he could not afford to hire private council. He was one of three co-accused in the case. When it was all said and done, he and one other man were convicted and sentenced to over 20 years in prison, both with the help of a court appointed lawyer. The third man, who hired a private lawyer, was found not guilty of all charges.
As a 17-year-old kid with no previous experience in the justice system, he listened to what his "lawyer" said when he was told that they wouldn't even post a defense because the DA hadn't proven their case. Even though there was a witness who could corroborate Adam's statements, the same witness who helped ensure a not guilty verdict for one of the other men, his "lawyer" chose not to call the witness.
As he sat in his prison cell, his cell mate told him to get off his ass and do something about his case. Adams found himself spending a lot of time in the prison law library, reading everything he could get his hands on in order to help overturn his conviction. He reached out to the Innocence Project, he wanted to have his conviction overturned because he did not receive proper legal council. The Innocence Project agreed with him, and so did the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. After nearly 10 years in prison he walked away free man, having been wrongfully convicted because of the ineptitude of a court appointed attorney.
What he did next will blow your mind...
After he was released, Adams went to community college before moving onto the School of Law at Loyola University in Chicago. After clerking in the very same court that ended up exonerating him, Adams was hired on by the New York Innocence Project, the first client of the organization to be hired on as an attorney after the fact.
He has officially come full circle, having won his first case as a lawyer for the Innocence Project. He was helping defendant Richard Beranek, who had been convicted of rape in 1990 and sentenced to over 200 years in prison. Witnesses placed Beranek in a different state at the time of the crime, but faulty FBI hair forensics convinced the jury to convict.
With the FBI coming forward and saying that the hair analysis was faulty, and the evidence given by the "expert" exceeded the limits of science, a judge from the Dane Country Circuit Court overturned Beranek's conviction, making him a free man for the first time in 28 years.
What makes this all the more poetic for Adam's is; it was in the same court, in the same state, with a man locked up in the same prison that Adams had to deal with during his own ordeal.
"Nothing pays me back more, or my family, than me walking in the same court, in the same state, where they didn't even look at me when they gave me 28 years," Adams said. "But now they have to acknowledge me as 'Attorney Adams.'"
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