Reporting Lisa Fielding
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CHICAGO (CBS) — For Jarrett Adams, 31, graduating with honors from Roosevelt University wasn’t a day he ever imagined.
“I would love to be able to tell you that when I was convicted and sentenced to 28 years, I knew I was getting out and everything was going to be OK,” Adams said. I didn’t feel like that.”
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Adams was convicted of sexual assault shortly after graduating from Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills. He was at a party with friends on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater when he and his friends were accused of a gang rape on Sept. 5, 1998.
Even though he proclaimed his innocence, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to 28 years in prison.
After serving nearly 10 years behind bars, and with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, the conviction was overturned and the charges dropped. He says he knew he had to make the most of his second chance.
“Everything happens for a reason. I believe God is ordering my steps,” Adams said. “In order for things to be corrected, it will take someone who has been through it.”
Freed in 2007, he enrolled in South Suburban Community College getting his Associate’s Degree of May 2009. He studied at Roosevelt since the Fall of 2009.
On Friday, at the Auditorium Theatre, he received his Bachelor of Professional Studies.
“How did I get to this point? It couldn’t have happened without an education,” he said.
Adams says he now helps those like him, those who need help and have nowhere else to turn. That, he says, has now become his life’s mission.
“If I can go and spend wrongfully ten years in prison and within five years, four years really go to law school, you can do anything,” he said.
“I hope whoever hears my story, they will know that anything is possible even after what happened to me.” Adams continued. “I have faith that I will someday will make change. I don’t know how but I know I won’t stop trying.”
Adams works for the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Federal Defender program and plans to attend Loyola University Law school.