Wrongfully Accused Inmate Is Now At The Top Of His Law Class
April V. Taylor
Sadly, the failures of the American criminal justice system mean that stories of people spending years and even decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit is nothing new, but the story of Jarret Adams provides a unique perspective of hope. After spending nearly ten years in prison for a rape charge whose only substantiating evidence was the word of the victim, Adams has won his freedom and is set to graduate from law school at Loyola University and make good on his promise to help other innocent inmates win their freedom.
Adams’ ordeal started when he was just 17 years old when he traveled from his hometown of Chicago to attend a party in Wisconsin with two of his friends. In a racially charged case, with no DNA evidence, Jarrett was convicted of rape by an all white jury and sentenced to 28 years in a maximum security prison after a white woman alleged that voluntary intercourse was in fact rape. With the assistance of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Adams began spending his days behind bars reviewing his case and fighting to prove his innocence. In 2007, Adams was finally exonerated based on perjury, false accusations and an inadequate legal defense.
Since his exoneration, Adams has completed an associates degree, graduated from Roosevelt University with top honors, begun working as a federal defense investigator and is completing his law degree. Adams did not let the fact that he received no compensation for his wrongful conviction slow him down; he earned the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship to help cover the costs of his schooling. Adams will be using his skills to advocate for indigent defendants and in the process help prevent wrongful convictions from occurring in the first place.
One of the ways Adams is helping those who have been wrongfully imprisoned is through the Life After Justice Center that Adams started with Antione Day, a fellow LAI exoneree. The mission of the center is, “To assist exonerees and parolees successfully reenter society.” The center accomplishes this by providing housing, job training, employment, counseling and other services. Adams says that the goal is to keep others from having to go through what he and Day went through while serving as a “launching pad” for helping people rebuild their lives and achieve their dreams.
As Adams prepares to help others avoid his fate, he puts a positive spin on his experiences rather than being bitter. Rather than continuing to look at the years he spent behind bars just as lost time as a productive citizen, he looks at it as “his first real year of law school,” serving as the foundation of his understanding of the legal system based on both his first hand experience and the things he learned in the process of winning back his wrongfully taken freedom.