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Stories and News No. 30: Let me go out, I am innocent

The Story:

My name is John and I am innocent.
As Thaddeus Jimenez, I also have been unjustly arrested.
Like him, I was imprisoned for a crime that I did not commit.
I live in the United States too, the land that many define the most important democracy in the world.
Similarly to that man, a day of many years ago a policeman put on me two handcuffs and made me get on his car.
In the same way I did everything to convince him that he had made a mistake, but it was totally superfluous.
Just like his case, at the time of the trial many witnesses came out, perfectly sure of my guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt.
With the same speed, the judge issued the worst sentence and I was transferred to a prison together with many real culprits and numerous innocent people like myself.
As that wretch man, I had to manage the unspeakable anger that was burning my stomach for the unfairness, the infinite sorrow for my unjust fate, the unacceptable hatred for God or whom have allowed such violence.
However, I did not have his destiny, which made him return to the sun light.
I am still here, like many, hoping to earn a result like his for the end of my story.
Yes, my story.
Because the news that matters to all of you is that a man named Thaddeus Jimenez was able to escape from hell.
For those who are still there, like me, there is no news.
There is at least some story...

The News (5 May 2009):

CHICAGO (AFP) — Arrested at 13 for a murder he didn't commit, Thaddeus Jimenez spent more than 16 years in jail before his conviction was tossed out and the man originally fingered for the crime was arrested. Jimenez is believed to be the youngest person convicted of a crime who has been exonerated in the United States. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 45 years in jail -- despite the fact that an alleged accomplice in the murder insisted that another teen been the shooter and that police were provided with a tape in which that teen confessed. According to news reports, prosecutors have charged Juan Carlos Torres, mpw 30, with the murder, and have filed papers for his extradition from Indiana, where he now resides. Meanwhile, Jimenez, also 30, who went to prison barely in his teens, returned to his mother's arms Friday a grown man. "Oh my God I can't believe it. I can't believe he's here," Victoria Jimenez sobbed as she wrapped her arms around her son. Jimenez clutched a piece of paper as he walked up to a podium in Chicago Monday to thank his family and his lawyers for working so hard to get him free. "You'll have to excuse me if I fumble some of my words. I'm a little bit nervous," he told reporters. "I'm happy to be alive today," he said as his mother wiped tears from her eyes and clutched his sister's hand. "There are many more innocent men, women and children still in prison today. I hope my case can be studied and used to prevent other defendants -- especially juveniles -- from having to endure what I had to endure." Many high-profile exonerations --some which have prompted several US states to suspend the death penalty -- have been gained through genetic testing of old evidence. But in Jimenez's case, freedom was won when the local prosecutors agreed to reopen the case, even after a judge dismissed a petition to for a retrial when two witnesses who had initially testified against him recanted. Recantations are often dismissed by judges unwilling to reopen a case, said Steven Drizin, who worked for years to free Jimenez and is director of the Wrongful Conviction Center at Northwestern University. "Our system is fraught with errors," Drizin told AFP. "The real question is what happens when errors are brought to the attention of those able to right a wrong. "In this case the prosecution stepped up to the plate, but there are many other cases where that doesn't happen." The case highlights problems with charging teens as adults and relying upon the testimony of children who are easily intimidated "into saying just about anything, Drizen said. "The case was built largely on the testimony of a terrified 14-year-old boy who the police woke up in the middle of the night and took down to the station without a parent and interrogated him until he changed his story," he said. An estimated 200,000 juveniles are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults every year in the United States, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice. The United States is alone in the world in applying the sentence of life without parole for crimes committed by juveniles, according to Human Rights Watch, which found nearly 2,500 US youths offenders serving such sentences last year.

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