Wednesday, January 25, 2012

32-year-old Man Exonerated For A 1993 Murder Is Awarded $25M For Wrongful Conviction

Thaddeus "TJ" Jimenez

Jimenez is currently facing a prison term of three years for a drug possession conviction.

By H. Nelson Goodson
January 25, 2012

Chicago - On Tuesday, a federal jury awarded $25 million for damages to Thaddeus "TJ" Jimenez, 32, who was wrongfully convicted for the April 3, 1993 murder of Eric Morro, 19. Jimenez was 13 at the time of his conviction. He was convicted in 1994 and then again in 1997, after an appeal failed and was sentenced to almost 50 years in prison. Jimenez served more than 16 years in prison, before being freed.
He was released on May 1, 2009 from prison, after he was exonerated by a Cook County judge, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Another suspect, Juan Carlos Torres, 30, of Indiana had previously confessed to police for the murder. But police and prosecutors ignored the confession and evidence introduced by Jimenez' defense lawyer.
On a third appeal in 2006, Jimenez sent a letter to the Northwestern Law Center of Wrongful Convictions (NLCWC) to consider his case. They did and the NLCWC was able to convinced the Illinois Attorney General's Office to released Jimenez after evidence showed that three former state witnesses recanted their testimony and no DNA linked Jimenez to the homicide. Which indicated Jimenez was innocent.
The case went back to court and the chief judge in 2009 released Jimenez by granting him a certificate of innocence following the recommendation by the Cook County state attorney general's office. The certificate is equivalent to a governor's pardon, clearing the way for Jimenez to get compensation from the state totaling about $200,000 for the time he served.
He became the first youngest teenager to be convicted for a homicide and later to be exonerated in the U.S., according to Jimenez' attorney.
On December 31, 2009, Jimenez sued a Chicago police detective and other police officers connected to the case in federal court. The defendants named in the lawsuit were the City Of Chicago, Jerome Bogucki, Mark Sanders, Raymond Schalk, F. Montilla, Lawrence Ryan and Robert Whiteman. Jimenez claimed the detective had coerce his confession, manipulated evidence and withheld evidence of his innocence during trial.
A federal jury agreed on Tuesday and awarded Jimenez $25 million in damages.
Torres was arrested in 2009 and charged for Morro's 1993 homicide after Jimenez was released. He was extradited to Illinois from Indiana. Torres is awaiting trial, court records indicate.
Jimenez is currently facing a prison term for drug possession. He was convicted in December of 2011 for a drug (LSD) felony possession charge when he was arrested at his home in early April 2010. He is facing up to three years in prison when he'll be sentence on February 1st.
Jimenez was also charged in a different case in late April 2010 for aggravated assault of a Rosemount public safety officer and possession of marijuana, according to court records.

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