Countless numbers of young Black men have been railroaded into convictions and Jarrett M. Adams was one of them. Back in 1998, the then 17-year-old was wrongfully charged and later convicted of rape and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Now, more than two decades later Adams is an attorney working to make sure no one else has to experience what he went through.
Thanks to the Wisconsin Innocence Project and some serious study of the law during his nine year incarceration, Adams was exonerated. The task was anything but easy. They had to prove that his legal defense during trial was inadequate and that the accuser committed perjury.
In his original case, Adams was told by his attorney that he would neither put on a defense nor would he call the one witness to the stand who would have freed him. After many appeals, Adams was finally released in 2007.
The state refused to compensate Adams for his time spent unlawfully in jail, but he refused to let the experience stop him from having a productive life. The young man continued his law studies at Loyola determined to be successful.
"Although I received my diploma from Loyola Law School in Chicago, I started law school in the Green Bay Correctional Facility," he told NBC's Lester Holt.
It must have been fate that led Adams through this ordeal and go on to become an attorney. Keith Findley, The Wisconsin Innocence Project co-founder who took on the case, acknowledges that Adams was more than prepared to win his appeal.
"He knew the case, factually better than anybody and he knew the law," Findley told Holt. "He said, 'Look, the issue we're going to win on is that ineffective assistance of counsel claim. You've got to lead with that. You've got to argue that."
Adams works for The Innocence Project in New York doing the same for others who have been wrongfully convicted. "I could have got out, became an attorney and ran into the sunset in a quest of resources and money to live the way that I wanted to live," he told the Chicago Tribune. "But I owe a duty and a responsibility to what I see that is going on."
Amen to that. We need more men like Jarrett Adams. Salute!