Falsely accused: wrongly convicted teen set free.
Subject: Accused persons (Cases)
Accused persons (Social aspects)
Murder (Cases)
Wrongful convictions (Law)
Pub Date: 09/22/2009
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: Fall, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 980 Legal issues & crime; 290 Public affairs Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Company legal issue
Persons: Named Person: Jimenez, Thaddens; Jimenez, Thaddens
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 205905788

After 16 years, 2 months, and 27 days in custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections for a murder he did not commit, Thaddens Jimenez was released. He was released at age 30, convicted at 14--making him Illinois's youngest person at the time of his arrest ever to be fully exonerated.

A February 1993 gang shooting in Chicago resulted in the death of 18-year-old Eric Morro. Morro was walking with his friend, 14-year-old Larry Trueffel, when the two got into an altercation with two other teens. Morro was shot in the chest and died at the scene. Initially, no eyewitnesses identified Jimenez's presence at the scene, much less his guilt. Later that night, one of these eye-witnesses called the police and amended his statement, saying that Jimenez shot and killed Morro (Center on Wrongful Convictions [CWC] & Katten Muchin Rosenman, 2009). Thirteen-year-old Jimenez had a long arrest record linked to his involvement in the gang; despite contrary evidence pointing to another suspect, the primary investigation focused on Jimenez.

Trueffel was brought in again for questioning; police brought the 14-year-old to the station in the middle of the night and interrogated him for hours without his parents present. Trueffel eventually agreed that Jimenez was the murderer, though he had never mentioned Jimenez in his previous statements. Jimenez was arrested early the next morning.

Victor, an accomplice to the murder who would be Jimenez's co-defendent, did not know Jimenez and identified Juan Carlos Torres as the shooter. Police even had a taped confession by Torres, whom Jimenez fingered as the murderer during his initial trial (Walberg, 2009). The father of a 12-year-old allegedly present at the crime provided a tape of Tortes admitting that he ran following shooting Morro and that he was glad the police had charged someone else with his crime (Dimanno, 2009). But this tape was not given consideration in the original investigation, and eyewitness testimony secured Jimenez's conviction. At the sentencing, the judge described Jimenez as a "little punk, probably too young to shave, but old enough to commit a vicious murder" (as cited in Dimanno, 2009). At the age of 14, Thaddeus Jimenez was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) of Northwestern University's School of Law and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP have pursued Jimenez's case since 2005. This partnership of Steven A. Drizin, Alison R. Flaum, and Joshua A. Tepfer of the CWC, and Stuart J. Chanen, Rachel M. Vorbeck, Patrick C. Harrigan, and Aaron M. Chandler of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP has put in thousands of hours of pro bona work on Jimenez's behalf. The CWC's Steve Drizin states, "There were so many red flags pointing the police and prosecutors in the direction of the true perpetrator, and we had to do that again 16 years later" (as cited in CWC, 2009). Finally, on July 31, 2006, Trueffel offered them a taped statement revealing that Torres, not Jimenez, was the shooter. May 2007, another eyewitness recanted her testimony against Jimenez as well. Jimenez's lawyers took the case to authorities in September of 2007 (Dimanno, 2009). It was at this point that investigators more closely analyzed the tape with Torres's confession. They finally gave due attention to the evidence that would clear Jimenez's name--evidence that had been available all along.

The morning of May 1, 2009, police arrested Torres for the murder of Eric Morro. At 7 pm that night, Jimenez was released from prison and greeted by several of the lawyers who had worked so hard to set him free (CWC, 2009). From there, they took Thaddeus Jimenez to a steak dinner and drove him home for a tearful reunion with his mother.

The newly issued certificate of innocence should help Jimenez find a job, and it entitles him to claim up to 5200,000 as compensation from the state for his years of wrongful imprisonment (Walberg, 2009). Like many individuals who are exonerated after long incarcerations, Jimenez just wants to get his life back: "I'm happy that it's done. I'm out. It's over with. I'm a free man and I have a new start.... Let bygones be bygones" (as cited in Hussain, 2009). Drizin says Jimenez's case highlights the need to electronically record all investigative interviews of children and for courts to be more receptive to evidence of innocence, especially of a third-party's guilt and recantation evidence (CWC & Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, 2009). But for now, Drizin and his associates can take pride in their role in Jimenez's remarkable story. Drizin describes Jimenez's immersion into a new world of freedom, including the young man's confusion when being handed a cell phone for the first time: "Slowly but surely, he's trying to stick his toe into the real world" (as cited in Dimanno, 2009).


Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC). (2009). CWC client arrested for murder at 13, exonerated at 30. Northwestern Law Retrieved May 27, 2009, from http://law.northwestern.edu/wrongfulconvictions

Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) & Katten Muchin Rosenman LLE (2009). Press release. Northwestern Law Retrieved May 27, 2009, from http://law.northwestern.edu/wrongfulconvictions

Dimanno, R. (2009, May 6). 16 years later, justice and freedom. The Star. Retrieved May 27, 2009, from http://www.thestar.com/news/columnist/article/629657

Hussain, R. (2009, June 3). Man wrongly convicted as teen of murder formally cleared. Chicago Sun Times Retrieved May 27, 2009, from http://www.suntimes.cam/news/metro/1605617, thaddeus-jimenez-wrong-conviction-060309.article

Walberg, M. (2009, June 4). Piece of paper means the world. Chicago Tribune Retrieved June 4, 2009, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ chi-exonerate-04-jun04,0,6929640.story
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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