Join us for our 12th annual
Defenders of the Innocent Event!
Featuring … The Exoneree Band
They lost a collective 92 years of their lives to wrongful imprisonment. Through storytellling and original songs, they share their experiences of wrongful conviction and imprisonment and, ultimately, justice.
Appearing thanks to a generous donation from Illinois Exoneree Juan Rivera.
Announcing … Our 2019 Defender of the Innocent Awardees
S.T. Jamison Jr., in his devotion to clearing his Uncle Grover Thompson’s name, represents all family and friends of the wrongfully convicted who never give up fighting to bring justice to their loved ones.
Grover died in prison in 1996, before he could seek help to prove his innocence. In 2012 S.T. became his uncle’s voice, advocating in front of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for Grover’s posthumous exoneration. When executive clemency was granted in January 2019, it was 23 years too late for Grover but finally acknowledged what S.T. and his family had always known – Grover was an innocent man.
James W. Reed Jr., for his pro bono dedication to helping the Project navigate the legislative process, strengthen relationships with policymakers and work toward successful passage of landmark legislation.
Jim provided unparalleled guidance and expertise to the Project as it worked through complex legislative processes to secure delayed state compensation for exonerees (2017); and to establish the nation’s strongest law protecting innocent people from the testimony of jailhouse informants (2018). Jim’s ongoing efforts are helping the Project develop new strategies and initiatives for the 101st General Assembly and the new administration.
Grover Thompson Posthumous Exoneration
Grover Thompson, whose cause we took on in 2012, received executive clemency based on actual innocence in January 2019 by outgoing Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. Thompson was wrongfully convicted in 1981 and died in prison in 1996. His is the first posthumous exoneration based on actual innocence in Illinois and only the 21st such exoneration nationwide, as documented by the National Registry of Exonerations as of January 14, 2019.
“We applaud Gov. Rauner for bringing justice to an innocent man who had no chance to fight for himself,” said John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “We also applaud members of Illinois law enforcement who recognized Grover’s innocence years ago and, with incredible involvement and devotion, fought with us to clear Grover’s name 23 years after his death.”
Lt. Paul Echols (retired), of the Carbondale, Illinois Police Department, was instrumental in uncovering Thompson’s innocence. While investigating several cold case murders in Carbondale, Lt. Echols along with Detective Jimmy Smith, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, obtained a confession from serial rapist and murderer Tim Krajcir for the crime Thompson was wrongfully convicted of committing.
To read more about this historic exoneration, visit our page on Grover Thompson.