Meet the Exonerees

Alejandro Hernandez

State: Illinois
Date of Birth:
Incident Date: 02/23/1983
Age at Arrest: 19
Conviction Date: 03/15/1985
Age When Exonerated: 31
Exonerated Date: 07/22/1995
Time Served: 12
Conviction: Murder, intent to kill, criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, residential burglary, deviate sexual assault
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: Yes

Case Details

In 1985, twenty-one-year-old Alejandro Hernandez and his codefendant, Rolando Cruz, were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping, and murdering ten-year-old Jeanine Nicarico two years earlier. Hernandez initially became a suspect, and blamed Cruz in exchange for a monetary reward. The two young men continued to implicate one another, as well as another individual, Stephen Buckley, who was never convicted. Although there was no physical evidence linking them to the scene of the crime, both young men were convicted based on snitch testimony from prisoners, and officer testimonies claiming that Cruz revealed details through “dream visions” and other incriminating statements that only the real murderers would know. Soon after the trial, a serial rapist and murderer, Brian Dugan, confessed to the crime, but prosecutors refused to free Hernandez and Cruz. In 1995, Cruz was acquitted and Hernandez’s charges dismissed due partly to Dugan’s confession, but mainly because new DNA evidence proved that neither Cruz nor Hernandez could have committed the crime, and the lieutenant who testified against Cruz’s “dream visions” recanted his statement. Hernandez and Cruz’s ordeal resulted in four sheriff’s deputies and three former prosecutors being indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, although they were all acquitted.