Thaddeus Jimenez was 13 years old when he was convicted of murdering another teen in Chicago. In 1993, 19-year-old Eric Morro was walking with a friend when someone shot him to death. Jimenez was nearby and made an easy target for the Chicago police.
The police framed Jimenez for the crime, and coerced Morro's friends and other eyewitnesses to finger him for the shooting, reports the Chicago Tribune. As a result, Jimenez was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the murder.
Sixteen years into his sentence, Jimenez maintained his innocence, and prosecutors eventually asked a judge to vacate his conviction as they had determined that another 13-year-old boy had committed the crime, reports the Tribune.
Jimenez, who is now 32 years old, was freed and he sued the city for wrongful conviction. This week, a Cook County jury sided with him and awarded him $25 million, the largest award ever given for such a case.
In his lawsuit, Thaddeus Jimenez claimed that the Chicago police were determined to make him the killer of Eric Morro, even when the evidence pointed elsewhere. Jimenez said that police ignored evidence that another teen committed the murder, including a recorded confession by that boy. Instead, they went after Jimenez and even pressured witnesses to identify him, though they had no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
The Chicago police do not have to be absolutely certain someone is guilty of a crime before arresting that person. But when police ignore evidence and manufacture evidence, they could be held liable in a wrongful conviction civil claim.