(CBS) — He went to prison as a teenager for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, 34-year-old Jarrett Adams is set to graduate from law school.
In this Original Report, Jim Williams tells us it took a lot of perseverance for Adams to make it this far.
It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, to go from inmate to attorney.
Jarrett Adams says he couldn’t have imagined this day while he was in a prison cell, but to his professors and mentors at Loyola Law School, his outlook today is just as impressive.
“I can’t say that if that had happened to me, I’d have the same outlook on life that Jarrett does so it must be something in the core of his being that I would love to be able to bottle,” said Michael Kaufman, associate dean for the Loyola University Law School.
“He did not allow his past to define him,” said Josie Gough, director of experiential learning at Loyola.
A past that includes a rape conviction in Wisconsin at 17.
Adams always insisted he was innocent and that key witnesses who could have cleared him weren’t called. He studied the law and wrote letters from a maximum security prison.
“I knew my case at that point like the back of my hand,” Adams said. “I could recite it in my sleep.”
With help from the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Adams was exonerated after 10 years in prison.
A month after his release, Adams started at community college, then graduated from Roosevelt University with honors.
On Saturday, he’ll receive his law degree from Loyola.
“Far more importantly, frankly, is on his level of character and development,” said Kaufman. “He’s a sensational person.”
“I could not be prouder of Jarrett if he were my own son,” said Gough.
Jarrett Adams now vows to work for men and women just like him.
“If I can break that barrier down with this story, let me break it down,” Adams said.
Next up for Adams is a public interest fellowship working for federal judge Ann Williams. It’s an unpaid position, so he’s set up a Go Fund Me account.
Jarrett Adams wants to eventually represent low-income defendants and try prevent wrongful convictions.