Case dropped against Lake Co. man imprisoned for 20 years

Prosecutors drop case against Juan Rivera, who spent 20 years behind bars

January 6, 2012

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(Photo via Illinois Department of Corrections)

Juan Rivera could soon be a free man after nearly two decades in prison. Lake County prosecutors said Friday they won't challenge a court decision reversing Rivera's convictions.

Rivera was convicted three times for raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl in Waukegan in 1992. Last month, the Illinois Appellate Court threw out the most recent conviction which came in 2009. The court scolded prosecutors, saying they gave unproved and speculative scenarios while prosecuting Rivera. DNA tests did not link him to the crime.

"Today we're not looking back," said Rob Warden, who's with the Center on Wrongful Convictions which supported Rivera's appeal. "We want to look to the future and we're just delighted and Juan is elated that he will be getting out very soon."

Rivera's attorneys said he was coerced into giving a false confession. They are seeking his immediate release from Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

Rivera has spent more than 19 years behind bars.