May 10, 2017

Adam Gray was 14 in 1993 when he was arrested and charged with starting a fatal fire that killed two elderly people in a Chicago apartment.  He was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole, under the law in place at the time.  The conviction was based primarily on testimony from Chicago Fire and Police Department experts that burn patterns showed an accelerant was used in the fire, as well as a confession he gave after seven hours of interrogation by Chicago police without a parent or guardian present.  Despite that confession, Mr. Gray has subsequently maintained his innocence. 

An art teacher at Chicago’s juvenile detention center who met Mr. Gray eventually came to believe he was wrongfully convicted.  That teacher reached out to Jenner & Block, providing the firm with affidavits and other materials that she had collected; in 2010, the firm took on Mr. Gray’s representation.  In the course of litigating his post-conviction petition, the team investigated and presented newly discovered evidence from three well-known fire science experts as well as from lay witnesses.  Based on advances in the field of fire science, the experts showed that there was no evidence to believe there was arson at all.  Further, physical evidence proved that the central elements of Mr. Gray’s confession could not have been true. 

The tenacious arguments made by Jenner & Block Partner Terri L. Mascherin finally persuaded the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to take another look at the case and, in the summer of 2016, the office announced it would join Mr. Gray’s request for a retrial.  Unfortunately, in November, the circuit court judge denied the joint request and the firm filed a notice of appeal.  After further negotiations with prosecutors, the new Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that the State would agree to voluntarily dismiss the charges against Mr. Gray.  The court approved the dismissal on May 3, 2017, and Mr. Gray was released from prison later that day.

In addition to Ms. Mascherin, the team representing Mr. Gray includes Partners Barry Levenstam and Daniel T. Fenske; Associates Brij B. Patnaik and James Dawson; and Paralegal Mary Patston.  Serving as co-counsel with Jenner & Block was Exoneration Project Staff Attorney Tara Thompson.

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