Bennie Starks with Cardozo Law alumni Lauren Kaeseberg who helped win his release. Photo: Ingrid Bonne

January 7, 2013 - Innocence Project client Bennie Starks walked out of a Lake County, Illinois, courthouse today a free man, ending a 25-year struggle to clear his name, including multiple rounds of DNA testing and three separate appeals. Newly elected State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim agreed to dismiss the remaining charges pending against Starks from a 1986 rape and battery. Though DNA testing from as early as 2000 excluded Starks as the perpetrator, former Lake County prosecutors repeatedly refused to acknowledge the results, coming up with improbable theories to deny Starks’ innocence. Starks’ exoneration comes one month after a court date last month was rescheduled due to a legal technicality.

The Innocence Project first agreed to represent Starks in 1996. Lauren Kaeseberg, a criminal defense attorney in the Chicago who worked on Starks’ case since she was a Cardozo law clinic student at the Innocence Project in 2004, joined Starks in court.

Read the full Chicago Tribune article and watch a video of Starks immediately after the hearing.
 
Read the press release.
 
Read more about the case here and here.