Exonerated man granted special status

June 3, 2009 3:25:48 PM PDT
A young man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and then spent more than 16 years in prison received a certificate of innocence Wednesday from a Chicago judge. The ruling clears the way for Thaddeus Jimenez to seek compensation for the time he was imprisoned.

Jimenez was 13 years old when he was convicted of the 1993 murder of Eric Morro.

Jimenez was released from custody in May after over 16 years of wrongful confinement . Wednesday, Jimenez was awarded a certificate of innocence by the chief judge of the criminal court of the circuit court of Cook County.

Jimenez is believed to be the youngest person in United States history to be wrongfully convicted and later fully exonerated.

"I feel great," Jimenez said. "I was expecting it, because I'm innocent and there's nothing else that -- you know, it was the right thing to do. I was expecting it. I'm happy what he's done. I feel like I was robbed. Nothing's ever going to make that right. But as far as the courts go he did everything he can do."

Jimenez says his mother Victoria helped keep him going all of the years that he was locked up behind bars.

"I love my mom. She's one of the main reasons I made it throughout these years. She's a strong woman and she's the one with me through thick and thin," said Jimenez.

"My heart almost flat lined. He's innocent. I've been trying to say that for 16 years so when I heard it," said Victoria Jimenez, Thaddeus' mother.

A certificate of innocence is the judicial equivalent of a pardon from the governor. It will pave the way for Jimenez to receive state compensation for the years he was wrongfully imprisoned.

"With that certificate, we will now go to the court of claims and seek state compensation for the 16 years he was in prison," said Steve Drizin, The Center On Wrongful Convictions.

Jimenez says he does not want the public to forget the victim, 18-year-old Eric Morro, who was gunned downed in 1993.

"He was killed, lost his life for nothing. My heart goes out to his mother and family," said Jimenez.

Jimenez says, for years, the Morro family believed he was responsible for their son's death.

"Now they know I'm innocent," Jimenez said.

"His innocence was demonstrated by the fact there was no physical evidence ever tying him to the scene. The eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony that he was there and most importantly, another individual, Juan Carlos Torres, was indicted," said Patrick Harrigan, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.

Jimenez says he now wants to spend time taking care of his mom, who is a cancer survivor.

Jimenez says he just got his drivers license and is going to all the places he has always wanted to visit in Chicago, including some Cubs games. He got college credits in prison and intends to finish school and earn a bachelor's degree.


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