By: by ELIZABETH CHUCK and DAN SLEPIAN of NBC
Attorney Jarrett Adams recently helped overturn an innocent man’s conviction — in the same state that, years ago, had sentenced him to prison for a crime he did not commit.
The case was Adams’ first professional win. But it was also deeply personal for the 36-year-old, who spent nearly 10 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a case that Adams, who is black, believes was tainted by racism.
“This is a storybook,” Adams told NBC News’ Lester Holt. “It’s a storybook tale that you wouldn’t believe until you saw it … to have a conviction overturned and in a court, in a state, that I was wrongfully convicted.”
Adams was only 17 when an encounter at a party, an accusation, and a court-appointed attorney put his life on hold.
He had just finished high school on Chicago’s South Side and decided to go to the University of Wisconsin for a party, where he and his friends met a young woman and had what he describes as a “completely consensual encounter from beginning to end.”
Three weeks later, as Adams was getting ready to start junior college in the fall of 1998, he was arrested. An officer informed him that the woman said she was raped, and that he was being charged with a group sexual assault along with two other teenagers.
Adams had never been arrested before. He denied the crime from the start, and thought the misunderstanding would get resolved quickly.
Instead, he was extradited to Wisconsin, where he couldn’t afford legal assistance. A court-appointed attorney chose not to put on a defense, even though there was a witness who could have helped clear Adams: a student living in the dorm who could corroborate Adams’ timeline of events.
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