By: Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune: January 25th, 2012

Thaddeus Jimenez was just 13 when he was arrested for the 1993 murder of an older teenager on Chicago’s Northwest Side, but after serving more than 16 years in prison, he was exonerated and released from prison in May 2009.

On Tuesday, a federal jury awarded Jimenez $25 million in damages, believed to be one of the biggest verdicts of its kind in Chicago.

If the verdict holds up on appeal, the city of Chicago would be on the hook for the $25 million, said attorney Jon Loevy.

Loevy said detectives pressured witnesses to say Jimenez was the killer when he wasn’t. Not long after he was charged in the slaying, the real killer confessed to the crime on audiotape, Loevy said, but when that evidence was brought to the attention of prosecutors at the time, they sided with the police.

Years later, lawyers and students from the Northwestern University Bluhm Center on Wrongful Convictions and other attorneys reinvestigated Jimenez’s conviction and found that two key witnesses recanted their original claims that he was the gunman. The state’s attorney’s office then agreed to reopen the case.

On the day that Jimenez was released from prison, prosecutors charged Juan Carlos Torres in the murder of Eric Morro. He has yet to go to trial.

“The state’s attorney’s office … recognized an injustice had occurred and they corrected it,” Loevy said. “They deserve a ton of credit for reopening the case … taking an honest look at it and correcting an injustice.”

Loevy said Jimenez works at a restaurant and is trying to “acclimate to life without prison.”

“He’s trying to figure out what to do for the rest of his life,” he said.