- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago man has graduated from law school more than seven years after he was exonerated for a rape conviction that led to a 28-year prison sentence.

Jarrett Adams spent a decade in prison and began his quest for higher education shortly after his release, first at community college and later at Roosevelt University. He graduated from Loyola University with a law degree on Saturday in an effort to help others who are in similar situations, WBBM-TV (https://cbsloc.al/1RVz1kb ) reported.

Adams told the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1S1r1y4 ) that his desire to become an attorney was fueled by the failings of his attorney, and the influence of his cellmate, who was a jailhouse lawyer. Adams knew he wanted to be a lawyer because he felt he would be an aggressive advocate for his clients, he said.

“I want to be the opposite of what my (trial) lawyer was, in so many ways,” he said.

Although Adams initially was more interested in working out and playing basketball while he was in prison, he said his cellmate challenged him to focus more on his case.

“He basically verbally grabbed me and told me to work on my case,” Adams said.

His cellmate introduced him to law, and Adams eventually took it upon himself to learn more and begin writing letters, he said.

Adams was able to convince the Wisconsin Innocence Project to take up his case. Adams lent his extensive knowledge of his case to his new attorneys, who filed a federal appeal claiming that the evidence fell short and Adams’ trial attorney failed to call a key witness, a man who would’ve undermined testimony of the alleged rape victim.

“I quickly learned this was one smart guy,” Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said of Adams. “He understood the case. He knew the law. He was really a charismatic guy.”

Adams conviction was thrown out in 2006, and he was released from prison after the case was dismissed later that year.

As a lawyer, Adams plans to fight for low-income defendants and the wrongfully accused.

“There is no way a client can say, ‘You don’t understand,’” he said. “Because I do.”

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