Lafonso Rollins

Lafonso Rollins spent 11 years behind bars for the rape and robbery of 79-year-old Mary Nesbary of Chicago before a DNA test exonerated him in 2006.

Rollins, who dealt with a learning disability, was arrested at the age of 17, tried and convicted of the crimes after giving a confession to the investigators when they told him that if he confessed and submitted to DNA testing, he could go home. Thirteen years after his arrest, Rollins learned that the DNA test results were never disclosed despite the fact that police took them to the lab. After demanding the test and spending months trying to fire his trial attorney (who was later disbarred for other reasons) a new lawyer was appointed to assist him.

When test results excluded him from the rape, Rollins was released. He received $145,837 through the Illinois Court of Claims and pursued a federal civil claim against those who extracted the false confession. In January 2006, the City of Chicago settled Rollins’s claim for $9 million after documents were discovered that revealed improper handling of cases by the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory.

— Rob Warden