As a young man Juan Rivera confessed to raping and murdering an 11-year-old Waukegan, Illinois, girl, Holly Staker. But recent DNA testing excluded him as the source of a semen sample taken from the victim. Despite the DNA exclusion Rivera’s third trial ended in a conviction. Lake County Prosecutor Mike Mermel had argued the 11-year-old victim had been sexually active with someone else earlier on the day of her murder.
An Illinois appeals court overruled the jury’s conviction and ignored Rivera’s confession and threw out the case, The court also scolded Lake County prosecutors in their ruling. Now, Rivera is suing authorities for the 19 years he spent in prison for the crimes.
Jon Loevy is representing, Rivera and says Lake County officials refused to admit they made a mistake.
“That’s a real problem,” said Loevy. “If they would have admitted this guy was innocent, it would have forced everybody to ask the hard questions, which are, if he had nothing to do with this crime, how is it that the police and the task force managed to get him to confess?”
Loevy says DNA testing has proven many times over that people do confess to crimes they didn’t commit.