Jenner & Block

December 9, 2014 Firm's Pro Bono Client Is Released after Serving 19 Years

A team working with attorneys from Northwestern University Law School’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions and Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Marshall represented Juan Rivera in appealing his third conviction of the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Holly Staker.  Jenner & Block, along with the Center on Wrongful Convictions, represented Mr. Rivera in his third trial.  At trial, the defense team proved that DNA evidence excluded Mr. Rivera as the rapist and killer. Despite that evidence, a jury found him guilty and the court sentenced him to natural life in prison without parole.  On this day in 2011, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District reversed Rivera’s conviction, finding insufficient evidence to support his conviction in light of the DNA evidence excluding him as the perpetrator. According to the Court’s 24-page ruling, the conviction was "unjustified and cannot stand."  In its opinion, the court said it sympathized with the Staker family but also concluded that “Mr. Rivera, too, has suffered the nightmare of wrongful incarceration.”  Mr. Rivera was released after serving 19 years in prison.  In a statement at the time, the firm said it donated more than 12,000 hours of legal work on the trial and appeal and called the ruling a "tremendous victory for Mr. Rivera and a great day for justice in the State of Illinois."  The Jenner & Block team on Mr. Rivera’s defense included current Partners Thomas Sullivan, Terri Mascherin and Andrew Vail, with assistance from Associate Daniel Fenske and former Associate Sarah Terman.  In 2014, authorities announced that DNA evidence from the case matched a potential suspect in a separate murder.

CATEGORIES: 2005-present, A Vail, J Rivera, Pro Bono, T Mascherin, T Sullivan, Video

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