Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rivera Released After 19 Years In Prison For Allegedly Killing Holly Staker, 11, DNA Didn't Match

Juan A. Rivera Jr.

DNA didn't match in homicide, an Illinois appellate court panel ruled in December.

By H. Nelson Goodson
January 7, 2012

Joliet, Illinois - On Friday, Juan A. Rivera Jr., 39, of Waukegan was finally freed after numerous appeals and his DNA didn't match with evidence taken from the August 17, 1992 homicide scene at 442 Hickory Street where Holly Staker, 11, was killed while baby sitting two children. Rivera walked out a free man from the Stateville Correctional Institute in Joliet on Friday. He spent more than 19-years in prison for a wrongful conviction. A jury had upheld his conviction three times, despite previous evidence that proved Rivera's DNA didn't match with the crime scene DNA recovered at the murder.
In December, a three judge panel in the Illinois appellate court finally reversed Rivera's conviction on a 3-0 decision in the stabbing, rape and homicide of Staker citing that DNA semen recovered from the crime scene didn't match Rivera's DNA. The appellate court ordered Rivera's release. But it took weeks to release Rivera due to paper work and confirmation of the court's decision.
The appellate court also ruled that Rivera's confession in 1992 resulted in his 1993 conviction stemming from a prepared statement by police at the time and was invalid. Staker had been stabbed 27 times, strangled and incurred massive injuries as a result of having been sexually assaulted virginally and anally prior to death, according to the coroner's report.
The DNA found at the crime scene has been place in the national data base system to search for a match, but no match has been found. In 2004, a DNA analysis was made and Rivera was eliminated as a match because his DNA didn't match with the DNA found in Staker's body. Despite the DNA results, a jury convicted Rivera once again. Until 2011, when the conviction was reversed by the appellate court.
Lake County State Attorney Michael Waller told media outlets, that the state won't seek an appeal on Rivera's release.
Rivera release came after his case was appealed by law professor Lawrence Marshall, with assistance of attorney's from the Jenner & Block lawfirm and the Northwestern University Center for Wrongful Convictions, which Marshall co-founded in 1999, the Lake County News-Sun reported.
State prosecutors and police are expected to re-open the Staker homicide case and begin to actually search for the suspect matching the DNA found at the Staker's homicide. As of Friday, the Staker case remains unsolved.

Appellate court decision on December 9, 2011 State of Illinois v. Rivera at link:

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