Jarett Adams’s path to becoming a defense lawyer includes a long road to success, probably longer than most. This is due to the fact that when he was just 17 years old, Adams was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in Wisconsin, and with this conviction, he was sentenced to 28 years in a maximum-security prison for adults.
Around the time of his wrongful conviction, Adams had just finished high school on Chicago's South Side and decided to go to the University of Wisconsin for a party. While he was there, he and his friends met a young woman and had what he describes as a "completely consensual encounter from beginning to end." (Source: NBC).
Three weeks later, as Adams was getting ready to start junior college in the fall of 1998, he was arrested. He was informed by an officer that the woman said she was raped, and that he was being charged with a group sexual assault along with two other teenagers who were there that night.
Adams had never been arrested before, and he thought that this horrible misunderstanding would get resolved quickly. However, he was extradited to Wisconsin, and to make matters worse, he couldn't afford legal assistance. The attorney, who was court-appointed, chose not to put on a defense, even though there was a witness who could have helped clear Adams. The witness was a student living in the dorm who could corroborate Adams's timeline of events.
"This guy is telling us, 'We know you didn't do it. They haven't proven their case. The best defense is a no-defense strategy,'" Adams said, "We're like, 'Yeah, sounds good,' because we didn't know any better, right? But in reality, it was a horrible idea to not call any witnesses, not to investigate, and to put this in front of an all-white, racially charged jury. We didn't stand a chance." (Source: NBC).
In 2017, Attorney Jarrett Adams helped overturn an innocent man's conviction. This happened to be in the same state that he had been sentenced to prison, years ago, for a crime he did not commit. (Source: NBC)
This was deeply personal for the man, who had wrongly spent nearly 10 years behind bars. Adams, who is black, believes that his conviction was tainted by racism.
Adams mentioned to NBC News’ Lester Holt, "It's a storybook tale that you wouldn't believe until you saw it...to have a conviction overturned and in a court, in a state, that I was wrongfully convicted."
This is the real-life experience of a man who turned a tragedy into justice for others.