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Man Sues for 19 Years Spent in Prison for Crime He Didn’t Do

 Posted on November 10, 2012 in Criminal Defense

Juan Rivera Jr. went through three trials and endured nineteen years in prison for a crime hedidn’tcommit. Now the Illinois man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Lake County state’s attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department for conspiring to deny him his Constitutional rights. Also specifically named in the lawsuit are former Sheriff Gary Del Re; current Sheriff Mark Curran; State’s Attorney Michael Waller; assistant state’s attorneys Jeffrey Pavletic, Michael Mermel and Matthew Chancey; Lake County Major Crimes Task Force officers Chuck Fagan, Lucian Tessman, and Donald Meade; the cities of Waukegan and Lake Forest; and the village of BuffaloGrove.

In 1992, Rivera was 19 years old and already in custody on a burglary charge when he became a suspect for the rape and murder of an 11 year old girl. In the lawsuit, he says he was subjected to several days of intensive interrogation, which lead to a mental breakdown on the third day. Medical officials at the jail diagnosed him as being in “acute psychosis” and he was put in constraints and placed in a padded cell. On the fourth day of interrogation, Rivera signed a confession written in English, a language he didn’t have the ability to read or write.

He was convicted of the crime in 1993, a verdict which was later reversed on appeal. He was granted a new trial but was found guilty again in 1998. A judge granted a new trial in 2004, granting Rivera DNA testing. He was found guilty for a third time in 2009. But last year, an appellate court reversed the guilty verdict based on DNA evidence and Rivera was finally released from prison in January. Prosecutors say they will not seek a new trial against him.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Rivera said this lawsuit is not just about him. “I need to look for justice, not just for me, but for the family of the victim,” Rivera said. “This lawsuit will make sure this type of thing will not occur in Lake County or anywhere else everagain.”

This case shows what can happen when someone is accused of a crime and does not have an attorney protecting them. Don’t let this happen to you. If the police are accusing you of a crime, contact an experienced Illinois defense attorney today.

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