Thaddeus Jimenez

Jailed for murder at 13, exonerated at 30

Thaddeus (T.J.) Jimenez, a Chicagoan who was arrested at age 13 and sentenced to 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, was exonerated and released from prison on May 1, 2009, after more than 16 years of wrongful imprisonment. On June 3, Paul Biebel, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit court, granted Jimenez a certificate of innocence, qualifying him for compensation from the state for the miscarriage of justice.

The victim of the crime Jimenez was wrongly accused of committing was 19-year-old Eric Morro, who was shot to death in the 3100 block of West Belmont Avenue on February 3, 1993. After Circuit Court Judge Christy Berkos held that a tape recording of another man confessing to the crime was inadmissible, a jury found Jimenez guilty. Then, at sentencing, Berkos described Jimenez as a "little punk, probably too young to shave, but old enough to commit a vicious murder."

The man who confessed on the tape was Juan Carlos Torres, who was indicted for the Morro murder 17 days after Jimenez was released. Torres, like Jimenez, was 13 when the crime occurred.

Jimenez was represented in the proceedings that culminated in his exoneration by a team of attorneys from the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Chicago law firm of Katten Muchin, LLP

— Rob Warden