Meet the Exonerees

Kenneth Adams

State: Illinois
Date of Birth: 1959
Incident Date: 05/11/1978
Age at Arrest: 19
Conviction Date: 1979
Age When Exonerated: 38
Exonerated Date: 07/02/1996
Time Served: 17.5
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: Yes

Case Details

Kenneth Adams was a member of Chicago's famed "Ford Heights Four," a group of young men who were wrongfully convicted of the 1978 rape and murder of Carol Schmal, and the murder her fiancé, Lawrence Lionberg. Adams, just nineteen years old at the time of the crime, was implicated by eyewitness Charles McCraney, and the coerced false confession of seventeen-year-old Paula Gray, a girl with mild mental disabilities. In 1979, Adams was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison. Discrepancies in McCraney’s testimonies led the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to agree to DNA testing. The reopened investigation uncovered accounts that a witness had informed police that they had the wrong men just a week after the crime. Ultimately, Adams was exonerated on July 2, 1996 after serving seventeen and one-half years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The men were granted $36 million in compensation from the Cook County Sherriff’s Police in the largest such settlement to date.