Thursday, October 3, 2019

As UIS marks wrongful convictions, exoneree says the fight continues

On Wednesday morning, students involved with the Illinois Innocence Project planted 2,492 small flags on the University of Illinois Springfield quad representing the number of men and women who have been exonerated of crimes since 1989.

In the middle of the display were 304 “UIS blue flags,” signifying the number of Illinois exonerees from that time.

“For me (this day) is a reminder of where I was years ago,” said Angel Gonzalez of Waukegan, who gained his freedom with the help of the Illinois Innocence Project after spending nearly 21 years in prison.

“It’s also a reminder that there are still a lot of men and women fighting to prove their innocence. It’s a joyful day, but at the same time it keeps me connected to what’s going on.”

The Illinois Innocence Project, which was founded at UIS in 2001, was one of about 50 or so innocence organizations marking International Wrongful Conviction Day, first started in 2014. 

Gonzalez, who was convicted of sexual assault 25 years ago before gaining the help of the New York-based Innocence Project and the IIP, spent Tuesday and Wednesday on campus speaking to students and staff members.

“Talking to the students is always great,” said Gonzalez. “I feel like they’re the ones who will eventually take over and make the system work and be a benefit for everybody. It brings me to meet face-to-face with those who have helped me and those who are continuing to help me.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 2, 2019.

Read the entire article online.