"I know I have never stopped fighting to get home to my kids and my family," Jennifer Del Prete said.
She and her family were reunited and stood together Thursday as she is filed a federal lawsuit against the village of Romeoville, its police department and others, saying they fixed a case against her. She spent nearly a decade in prison for a shaken-baby murder she says she did not commit.
A year ago a judge vacated Del Pete’s conviction based in large part on the work of students from the Medill School of Journalism and she was released from prison.
Del Prete, of suburban Hickory Hills, was serving a 20-year sentence and not scheduled to be released on parole until 2025.
"There was evidence at the time that cast doubts on the prosecution’s case," said attorney Jon Loevy. "The rules required police to turn that over. They didn’t. And as a result, her constitutional rights were violated."
In particular, a letter from another doctor who said a child who died after being in Del Prete’s care may have died from a pre-existing condition and not “shaken baby syndrome” as prosecutors had claimed.
"When I found out about the letter, I was very bitter, very angry," said Del Prete. "I lost faith in God, I lost faith in America."
The county says it plans to re-try her.
"Nothing can compensate for the tragedy that we all went through, but I am hoping we can get some justice and I can be proud to be in America," she said.
Justice, the mother of two says, not just for her and her family, but for other women like those she met in prison, who she says didn’t deserve to be there.
"I want my case to be an example so I can help other people, because there are hundreds and hundreds, thousands of people who have had this same nightmare that I have gone through," Del Prete said.