Man Exonerated for Crime Sues Lake County Police

courthouseBy the time that Juan Rivera was taken into custody, the trail to find the killer of eleven year old Holly Staker had gone cold.  The girl had been raped and stabbed in Waukegan while babysitting for two children in the summer of 1992.  The Lake County Police Department had followed up on more than 600 leads to find the killer when they questioned the then 19 year old Juan Rivera for the second time.  He had originally stated that he was at a nearby party around the time of the crime.

Incongruities in his story lead the police to aggressively interrogate the man with a 9th grade education and psychological problems.  For up to four days, Rivera was subjected to almost constant questioning.  After banging his head against his cell, pulling out his hair and being restrained by handcuffs and leg shackles, he confessed to the murder in graphic detail.  His admission of guilt was the centerpiece in the case against him.

Rivera was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the crimes in 1993.  In 1996, an appellate court reversed the decision based on errors in the trial and demanded a new trial.  By 1998, Rivera was retried and sentenced to life again. This time the appellate court did not overturn the decision.  It was only in 2006, when DNA tests confirmed that the semen was not Rivera’s that a third trial was ordered by the sentencing judge.  After being found guilty for the third time, an appeal in 2011 allowed Rivera to be exonerated and released in 2012.

Now that he has his freedom, he is trying to regain his life again.  Since he was in jail for twenty years, he has never seen such landmarks like Navy Pier and Soldier Field.  He also was not able to make plans with his wife.  To compensate him for the time he has lost, he is suing the Lake County Police Department and prosecutors for financial damages.  The next step is for Rivera to get his record expunged so that his record will be cleared.  If you have been exonerated of your crime or had the charges dropped, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Cook County today.

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