From Wrongfully Convicted to Attorneys at Law

Jarrett Adams and Marty Tankleff spent multiple decades innocent behind bars. They were both failed by our criminal justice system—like so many others.

At the age of 18, Mr. Adams and two other teenagers were accused of a group sexual assault at the University of Wisconsin. He would later go to trial on two separate occasions and end up getting wrongfully convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 28 years in prison. After years of studying the law, appeal after appeal being denied, Mr. Adams (with the assistance of the Wisconsin Innocence Project) got a federal court to agree that his trial lawyer was ineffective and that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Mr. Adams was released on Jan. 28, 2007, and prosecutors in his case dismissed all charges against him on Feb. 9, 2007.

While in prison, Mr. Adams noticed how so many African Americans suffered from bad representation. Although he was now free, his mission was not complete—in fact, it was just beginning.

Mr. Adams enrolled at Roosevelt University School of Law, graduated with high honors and passed the New York Bar Exam—then he joined the Innocence Project.

In December of 2016, Mr. Adams was in court representing a client and told the Chicago Sun-Times: “It was kind of surreal to be in there — from being in prison to being able to argue for someone else.”

Marty Tankleff was a teenager when he suffered a triple heartache. Mr. Tankleff lost both of his parents in 1998 and then was charged and wrongfully convicted of their murders in 1990. His arrest and conviction stemmed from a false confession that was coerced by the police. He was sentenced to 50 years to life.

Media guru Lonnie Soury led the campaign to help free Mr. Tankleff. In 2007, his conviction was overturned with the court ruling that, if a jury had heard the new evidence, they would probably acquit Mr. Tankleff. Mr. Tankleff also went on to achieve his law degree at Touro Law Center, and just two weeks ago he passed the New York Bar Exam.

Both of these men, upon their release from their wrongful convictions, immediately began speaking out to help other innocent prisoners, at the same combatting current and future wrongful convictions. Even though there have been records numbers of exonerations these last three years, the necessary attention is still not being put forth, leaving our nightmares largely to be swept under the GIANT RUG OF INJUSTICE...

Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence until 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered him back to prison to resume the sentence. With the support of The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Though he does not have internet access himself, you can email his campaign, make a donation, or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS