Man Wrongfully Convicted of Starting Fatal Fire Released From Prison After 24 Years Behind Bars

“I got home, and just tried to reconnect with my family,” Gray said

A wrongfully convicted man, who had been behind bars since he was 14 years old, has been released from prison 24 years after he was accused of starting a deadly fire in Chicago.

Adam Gray was arrested and charged with starting a fatal blaze that killed two elderly people in a Chicago apartment in 1993. He was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.

But attorneys say his conviction was based primarily on testimony from Chicago Fire and Chicago Police Department experts showing that burn patterns showed an accelerant was used to spark the flames.

Gray also confessed to the crime after what attorneys said was seven hours of interrogation by police without a parent or guardian present. But despite that confession, Gray had otherwise maintained his innocence.

“I spent several hours expressing my innocence to the cops but anything I said that wasn’t in line with what they wanted was disregarded or ignored,” Gray said.

Gray’s case changed dramatically after an art teacher at Chicago’s juvenile detention center said she believed he was wrongfully convicted. Rebecca George collected affidavits and other materials she hoped would get the case a second look and gave them to the attorneys that would ultimately fight to have his case retried.

Those attorneys, citing “advances in the field of fire science,” enlisted fire scientist experts who showed there was “no evidence to believe there was arson at all,” according to a release from the Jenner & Block firm. They also claimed physical evidence proved that “central elements of the client’s confession could not have been true.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office took a second look at the case last summer and the office, along with Gray’s attorneys, requested a retrial.

In November, that request was denied, but State’s Attorney Kim Foxx agreed to voluntarily dismiss the charges against Gray. That dismissal was approved in court Wednesday morning and Gray, now 38, was released from prison.

“We’re very grateful to Kim Foxx, the new State’s Attorney of Cook County, to agree that this justice was far too long in coming,” said Terri Mascherin with Jenner & Block.

Gray said he may consider a civil suit, but he is still trying to “get his sea legs.”

“I got home, and just tried to reconnect with my family,” he said.

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