The Crime: In February 1983, a 10-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Illinois. When police found her body in the woods near her home, they discovered several sets of footprints, indicating more than one person had committed the crime. Police questioned Alejandro Hernandez, who accused Cruz, an acquaintance. Cruz and Hernandez continued to implicate each other for cash rewards and petty benefits from police, and the entire case was based on the statements the two had made to investigators. After enduring three trials and three convictions, Cruz was sentenced to death for, among other crimes, murder, rape and kidnapping.
The Exoneration: In September 1995, tests showed that DNA found at the crime scene couldn't have come from Cruz or from Hernandez, and that a man named Brian Dugan could not be eliminated as a suspect. Before Cruz could be given a fourth trial, a sheriff's department lieutenant recanted testimony that had helped implicate Cruz. The cases against both Cruz and Hernandez were dismissed. Dugan, who admitted to the crime, could not be tried since his confession, obtained during a plea bargain for other crimes, could not be used against him. Cruz served more than 10 years in prison.
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