MacArthur Justice Center Fights to Preserve Jury Award to Youngest Victim of Wrongful Conviction
Lawyers for Thaddeus (T.J.) Jimenez are fighting an attempt to overturn a federal jury's award of $25 million to Mr. Jimenez, who was imprisoned at age 13 for a murder he did not commit and spent more than 16 years in prison.
After witnesses recanted their testimony, Jimenez was exonerated and released from prison in 2009. He is the youngest person ever arrested, transferred to criminal court, convicted, and then later exonerated.
Jimenez sued the City of Chicago and former Chicago police detective Jerome Bogucki for violating his rights in connection with the wrongful conviction. In January 2012, a federal jury awarded Jimenez $25 million, possibly the largest award from wrongful conviction in the city's history.
Alleging errors in jury selection and during trial, Bogucki and the City are seeking a new trial even though Bogucki acknowledged prior to the start of the punitive damage phase at trial that the verdict was "correct in every way." After receiving that acknowledgement and Bogucki's sworn testimony that he violated Jimenez's constitutional rights, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly canceled the punitive damages trial and entered judgment on the jury's $25 million verdict. Bogucki and the City then appealed. A motion by Bogucki to keep his admission out of the appellate record has been rejected.
"That stipulation, overseen by the judge on the record and backed by Bogucki's sworn testimony, is conclusively binding," Jimenez's lawyers argued in a response brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals. "As a judicial admission, it forecloses Bogucki's present arguments that the verdict was not correct, and renders harmless any purported evidentiary or juror-related error."
Aside from that major defect, the response brief filed on behalf of Jimenez argues there is no merit to Bogucki's other arguments, including his contention that there were errors in jury selection. "Prior to the verdict, there was not the slightest suggestion - not even a whisper - that Bogucki suffered any prejudice as a result of the jury that was empaneled to try this case," the brief states.
Falsely accused of the 1993 murder of Eric Morro, Jimenez had nothing to do with the murder and was home with his family playing videogames and doing homework when Morro, 19, was shot to death. There was no physical evidence connecting Jimenez to the murder; Jimenez consistently maintained his innocence; and someone else confessed to the crime. Students from the Center on Wrongful Convictions later helped convince the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to reopen the case and conducted a two-year review leading to a motion to vacate the conviction of Jimenez and his eventual release from state prison at the age of 30.
Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center Legal Director Locke Bowman represented Mr. Jimenez at trial and in the appeal in collaboration with Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy and Stuart Chanen of the Valorem Law Group.
Major Victory for Clinic's MacArthur Justice Center, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center
Thaddeus Jimenez: Jailed for murder at 13, exonerated at 30, Center on Wrongful Convictions
Wrongfully imprisoned Chicago man wins $25 million in damages, Chicago Tribune
Wrongfully Convicted Man Awarded $25 Million, WMAQ-TV, Chicago
Updated - 09/05/2013