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Jacques Rivera, Man Who Spent 21 Years In Prison On Wrongful Conviction, Sues Chicago Police

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Jacques Rivera, 47, was released from prison last fall.
Jacques Rivera, 47, was released from prison last fall.

A Chicago man who served 21 years in prison on a murder charge for which he was later exonerated filed suit Thursday against the city of Chicago and its police department.

Attorneys representing Jacques Rivera, 47, claim that Chicago police falsified evidence and manipulated a witness before their client was convicted in 1988 of fatally shooting Felix Valentin, a gang member, and sentenced to serve 80 years in a maximum security prison.

Locke Bowman, an attorney whose firm is representing Rivera, said his client "suffered a grave injustice at the hands of Chicago police" and deserves to be compensated for it, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Last fall, the purported crime's only eyewitness recanted his testimony that identified Rivera as the killer. The charges were dropped and Rivera was, essentially, a free man again. The witness, Orlando Lopez, was 12 years old at the time of the alleged crime.

Bowman further described such behavior leading to wrongful convictions as "a pattern with the Chicago Police Department," NBC Chicago reports.

"The Police Department has never investigated any of these cases or disciplined an officer despite clear, egregious misconduct in many of these cases," Bowman said, according to NBC. "That's simply unacceptable."

Rivera's case was the subject of over a decade of work by the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

When Rivera, a former Latin King, was released from prison last October, he said he planned to work with inner-city youth. But HuffPost Chicago blogger David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project, reports that Rivera has struggled to get on his feet since his release.

Specifically, he's been unable to attain the $199,150 in financial restitution he is seeking under Illinois law because Cook County prosecutors have called on Rivera to further prove his innocence -- even after being exonerated.

The strange loophole is the subject of a bill proposed by state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

"I'm not really free yet. At 47, I live with my mother to make ends meet and I can't afford a vehicle to get to a job or the events I've been asked to speak at," Rivera told Protess last month. "Prosecutors are doing everything they can to prevent me from living my life."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Rivera was convicted in 1998. He was, in actuality, convicted in 1988.

WATCH a previous report on Rivera's exoneration:

View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.

Around the Web

Jacques Rivera Exonerated : Northwestern University Newscenter

Man Jailed for 21 Years Set Free After Murder Charges Dropped ...

Sole witness to 1988 murder recants testimony - Chicago Tribune

Charges Dropped, Man Released After 21 Years In Prison « CBS ...

Man freed after 21 years sues Chicago police

Editorial: Recantations need to be given serious look