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Sometimes You (Sort of) Win One


I blogged a couple weeks ago about the case of Juan Rivera, who Illinois prosecutors kept sending back to jail based although his confession was coerced and the forensic evidence pointed to another perpetrator.   I can’t say that justice has been served — too late for that — but the appellate court has had enough:

In its opinion, the appellate court on Friday said the confession was highly suspect and was not enough for a “rational trier of fact” to conclude that Mr. Rivera was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For instance, while prosecutors insisted that Mr. Rivera’s confession contained details only the killer would know, the court said that detectives had fed some details to him by asking leading questions and that some other facts had been made public in newspaper articles.

“The evidence belies the state’s argument and supports an inference that details of the crime were provided to defendant, intentionally or unintentionally, during the investigative process,” the opinion said. “The evidence further supports an inference that the details that the defendant provided were the result of psychological suggestion or linguistic manipulation.”

The court also noted that while the DNA evidence does not exonerate Mr. Rivera, it nonetheless “embedded reasonable doubt deep into the state’s theory.” The judges said evidence in the case discounted the idea that the sperm sample was contaminated. And regarding the state’s suggestion that the sperm came from an unnamed lover of Holly’s, the court said, “The state’s theories distort to an absurd degree the real and undisputed testimony that the sperm was deposited shortly before the victim died.”

In addition, the prosecutor who came up with ridiculous stories about people going for walks in the woods and coming back with their genitals covered in semen as a reason first to keep an innocent man in prison and then to decline to go after the guilty one is apparently getting pushed out. It’s good when investigative journalism gets results, and Martin’s was superb.

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