Wisconsin Innocence Project Exoneree Wins Law Scholarship

Wisconsin Innocence Project exoneree Jarrett Adams has just received the Chicago Bar Foundation's Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship.

For Adams, the law school scholarship is particularly noteworthy because, between 2000 and 2007, he was serving out a 28-year sentence in Wisconsin on a wrongful sexual assault conviction. After working unsuccessfully on his own appeals, Adams sought the assistance of the Wisconsin Innocence Project and ultimately won the case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Citing ineffective legal counsel, the Innocence Project argued that Adams' court-appointed attorney failed to call a key witness whose testimony undermined the purported victim's credibility. On that basis, the Court unanimously reversed Adams' conviction.   

Keith Findley led the team representing Adams on his successful appeal. The decision in Adams' favor defied the odds, says Findley, as the vast majority of such claims are denied. "The courts have established a fairly onerous standard that one has to meet in order to be granted a new trial based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel," Findley says.

In light of the appellate court's decision, the state of Wisconsin eventually dropped all charges against Adams.

Adams has since graduated with high honors from Roosevelt University, and now the South Chicago native is pursuing a degree in criminal defense law at Loyola University. He says his goal is to learn to defend others "against the same thing that ultimately got me convicted--not having a defense."

Adams is the second Wisconsin Innocence Project client to pursue a law degree. Chris Ochoa, the first prisoner ever to be exonerated by the Innocence Project team, received his degree from the UW Law School in 2006.

To learn more about the case, watch a video featuring Jarrett Adams and Keith Findley. 

Submitted by Law School News on August 8, 2012

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