ALGIE CRIVENS III was 18 and just out of high school in 1991 when he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. In 1989, Algie was arrested and charged with murder after two eyewitnesses mistakenly identified him as the killer. Before Crivens’ bench trial, a man came forward to claim that, while in a jail lockup, he heard another man confess to the crime. The judge rejected this witness’s testimony as uncorroborated and unreliable and found Crivens guilty based on the eyewitness identifications.
While in prison, Crivens earned an associate’s degree in social science and a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He also took courses in paralegal studies and culinary arts. During this time, Crivens appealed his case up through the state courts to a federal trial court, spending nearly $30,000 in legal fees. To cover the costs, his family refinanced its home and took out loans, but struggled to come up with sufficient funds. So Crivens put his paralegal training to use and wrote his own petition to the federal appellate court.
Despite the odds, he succeeded. The court ruled that Cook County prosecutors had concealed the fact that the only witness to identify Crivens as the murderer may have lied. Crivens was awarded a new trial and found not guilty. He was released in 2000, and a pardon by then-Governor George Ryan later entitled him to collect $128,000 in restitution. He now works at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, where he evaluates applicants for unemployment insurance.