CBA Record September-October 2021

defense counsel said. When Adams turns around to apologize to his mother on sentencing day, saying that he apologizes to her but is innocent, another 10 years is tacked on to his sentence. Adams speaks of the appellate process inWisconsin and the prison system, where he was often thrown into solitary confinement and moved to more hard-core prisons. He became the jailhouse lawyer and works on many cases, often getting prisoners off on beefs and charges against them. When he first got to prison, he just went through the motions. His older cellmate, who covered for Adams when a cell search was done, spoke to him one day, telling Adams that the cellmate is confused. He said to Adams: “I see you out there playing basketball, playing chess, lifting weights. You act like you’re at some kind of camp. You don’t act up.” Adams got to work reviewing his file and sent dozens of unanswered letters for help. But near the deadline for filing his appeal, the Wisconsin Innocence Project letter arrived. Adams kept insisting that the prosecutors turn over a statement from the young man at the campus who had been playing video games with him and his two friends from Chicago and then, after the alleged rape, was in the smoking area with the accuser and Adams and his friends. Adams was released eventually but faced the potential of another trial and going back to prison. In the second part of the book, Rise, Adams tells of the difficulties of being warehoused for a decade and the challenges facing those released from prison, even with such mundane matters as getting an ID. Many people who were imprisoned for a decade, even much less, would have quit. But Adams followed through on his prom- ise to himself, beginning the long journey at South Suburban College. There, he met a woman who helped him navigate going to school part-time, obtaining financial aid, and much more. Adams earned his JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and started a public interest law fel- lowship with Judge Ann Claire Williams, the same judge who reversed his conviction due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Adams received the 2012 Chicago Bar Foundation’s Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship.



Redeeming Justice: FromDefendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System

A s Covid-19 continues to run like wildfire across the United States amid debates over vaccination and mask mandates, one would do well to consider the real meaning behind claims of liberty and freedom and the right to be left alone. In his newly published autobiography, Jarrett Adams tells us much about what being abused by the government really means. His story is of a young South Side black man being falsely accused at age 17 and then wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 28 years in a maximum- security prison, spending almost 10 years in Wisconsin prisons before being exoner- ated with assistance from the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Adams tells of his time in prison, where he gave up hope and questioned his faith. He speaks of the crack epidemic while he was growing up in the late 1980s and his mother, aunties, and grandmother speak- ing of “disposable young Black boys.” After graduating high school, Adams and two of his friends drove to a party at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, each having told his family they were stay- ing at the other’s house overnight. While partying and playing video games, two young white women entered the room. Adams’s two friends left with one of them to go to her room, while Adams stayed behind to play the next round of the game. After doing so, he also went to the woman’s room, where each of the three Black men had “a consensual sexual encounter with the young woman.” When her roommate came in, she stopped and left the room, telling the young men to act like nothing happened. “What happens over the next few minutes has altered my life forever,” Adams writes. The public defender who represents Adams in his first trial makes little effort. For example, his opening statement consists of a single sentence, and says the jury will hear the same things that the co-

By Jarrett Adams Convergent Books, an Imprint of Random House (2021) Reviewed by Daniel A. Cotter

Daniel A. Cotter is Attorney and Counsel at Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC, a member of theCBARecordEditorial Board, and Past President of the CBA.

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