A woman who spent nearly a decade in prison for a shaken-baby murder she claims she did not commit was released from prison Wednesday while her appeal is being heard.
A federal judge in Chicago last week ordered that Jennifer Del Prete be released after new evidence was introduced questioning her conviction.
Del Prete, of suburban Hickory Hills, was serving a 20-year sentence and not scheduled to be released on parole until 2025.
Del Prete was greeted oustide the Lincoln Correctional Center by her daughter, sister, attorney and various individuals from Northwestern University.
Northwestern undergraduates, working with Medill Justice Project director Alec Klein, discovered a 2003 letter written by a police detective pointing to her innocence that prosecutors had not provided to Del Prete or her attorneys, according to a news release.
"We determined it was sent from a detective to the prosecution's expert witness and then that piece of evidence became crucial in the federal judge's ruling," said Alex Hample of the Medill Justice Project.
In the letter, the detective reportedly wrote that the pathologist performing the infant’s autopsy had significant doubts that Del Prete had violently shaken the infant in what is known as shaken-baby syndrome.
Earlier this year, the judge released a 97-page ruling stating that no reasonable jury that heard all the evidence in Del Prete’s case would have convicted her.
Del Prete posted bond and will remain free while the courts address her claims of innocence.