It’s a cruel sociological experiment. Lock up a 13-year-old boy for a murder that he swore he didn’t commit. Release him as a 30-year-old man. Then, give him $25 million. New from the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago, “Motive” is a true-crime podcast hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Frank Main.
Here are the key players:
Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez
He was arrested for murder at 13, freed at 30 when a judge found he was wrongfully convicted and got rich when he got a $25 million award in a lawsuit against the city of Chicago. But then he spent a lot of that on his old gang. And he ended up back in prison for shooting a man in both legs. The question is: Why?
Victoria ‘Vicky’ Jimenez
The mother of Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, she spent 16 years trying to get her son out of prison for a murder she always said he didn’t commit. She grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago, the daughter of a Chicago firefighter and a mom her kids called “Busha.” She was a longtime waitress.
He’s a civil rights attorney who has had some of the biggest courtroom victories in Chicago, including T.J. Jimenez’s $25 million wrongful-conviction award.
He was with his friend Eric Morro when he was shot to death next to a Honey Baked Ham store in 1993. Tueffel didn’t initially identify Jimenez as the shooter but did after being reinterviewed by the police the next morning. In 2006, he recanted, saying he lied, that Jimenez wasn’t even there at the time of the killing.
A freelance journalist, she was a college student in downtown Chicago when she started reporting on strange activities she witnessed on the roof of a parking garage and wound up talking by phone with Jimenez.
A litigator, he’s frequently defended the city of Chicago in misconduct lawsuits against police officers.
Robert Tracy was the chief of crime strategy for the Chicago Police Department in 2015 when Jimenez was arrested for shooting a man in the legs.
Father David Kelly
Father David Kelly of the Precious Blood Ministry, which serves at-risk youth, met T.J. while he was held at the Audy Home, the juvenile detention center in Chicago. Kelly, a Roman Catholic priest, has ministered to thousands of kids who were locked up, but says T.J. always stood out to him. He remembers T.J. as an engaging, articulate kid whom he met with once a week.
Brian Nelson was the leader of the Simon City Royals in prison. He spent the last 12 years of his sentence in solitary confinement in Tamms, a super-max prison in southern Illinois. For 23 hours a day in isolation, he copied the Bible. Tamms is now closed, and Nelson now works as a a law clerk at Uptown People’s Law Center.