(CBS) — In this season of graduations we celebrate the perseverance and dedication of graduates everywhere. But one young man overcame odds that’ll make you shake your head.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports.
Saturday morning, Jarrett Adams received his law degree from Loyola after spending 10 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
It’s an extraordinary accomplishment to go from inmate to law school graduate.
“I couldn’t have imagined this day,” Adams tells Williams.
To his professors and mentors at Loyola Law School, his outlook 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,” Prof. Michael Kaufman says.
“His character is flawless. He did not allow his past to define him,” adds another faculty member, Josie Gough.
That past that includes a wrongful rape conviction in Wisconsin at 17.
Adams always insisted he was innocent and that key witnesses who could have cleared him weren’t called.
Sentenced to 28 years in prison, Adams spent his days playing basketball and chess until his cellmate examined the case.
“He was like, ‘Sit down. I’m in here for the rest of my life for something I did do. You are here for some absolute bull-crap with no evidence, and you’re not going to fight to get out.’ And so it really woke me up,” he says.
Adams himself studied the law and started writing letters. With help from the Wisconsin Innocence Project he was exonerated after 10 years behind bars.
A month after his release Adams started community college and then graduated from Roosevelt University with honors.
He says he hopes his graduation from Loyola Law School rewards the devotion of his mother and aunts , who stood with him for the decade he was prison.
“I said at the very least I’m going to do something with myself to show these ladies — that the time and money they invested in me with those expensive phone calls and those expensive prison visits would not go wasted,” Adams says.
Jarrett Adams now vows to work for men and women just like him.
He says he’ll work for low-income defendants and the wrongfully accused. But now after prison and seven years of college and law school he has set up a GoFundMe account.