Jimmy Soto Exonerated, Becomes Longest Wrongfully Incarcerated Person in Illinois History

On December 14, 2023, EP client Jimmy Soto was exonerated after spending 42 years wrongfully incarcerated. Jimmy was exonerated alongside his cousin and co-defendant David Ayala – the men are now the longest wrongfully incarcerated persons in Illinois state history. They were convicted at ages 20 and 18 respectively of murders in which no physical evidence connected them to the crime. They were convicted almost solely based on coerced witness testimonies. Officers arrested over a dozen people and charged them with murder to coerce statements against Mr. Soto and Mr. Ayala. Witnesses were similarly charged with obstruction of justice to coerce identifications. During their post-conviction investigations and hearings, all witnesses who implicated them during the original trial, aside from the admitted perpetrator who testified against them, recanted their accusations. 

While in prison, Mr. Soto became an important leader in his community and helped several men gain new trials or sentence reductions. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern’s Prison Education Program this year (pictured in the second slide during his graduation, photo credit to Monika Wnuk). He recently took the LSAT and is planning to apply to law school with the goal of helping incarcerated people and advocating for a comprehensive parole system in Illinois.

Mr. Soto is represented by Attorneys Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, Karl Leonard, and Debra Loevy of the Exoneration Project, and Jennifer Blagg of Blagg Law. Mr. Ayala is represented by Attorneys Jennifer Bonjean and Ashley Cohen of Bonjean Law Group.



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