In 1996 a 17-year-old Jarrett Adams told his parents he was staying at a friend's house. Adams and two friends ended up at a campus party at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.
"I had no business being up there," Adams told the Chicago Tribune. "It was [a] … recipe for disaster."
The three friends ended up in the dorm of a woman they met at the party. She accused the three young men of rape.
Adams knew that he didn't commit any crime; his lawyer told him the evidence was thin. But even with barely any witness testimony and no evidence to support his guilt, he was convicted and sentenced to 28 years in prison.
"When they said, 'Guilty,' it was shocking," he told the Tribune. "It was a numbing experience."
His days behind bars were filled with basketball and chess, until one day his cell mate challenged him to fight his case.
"He was like, 'Sit down. I'm in here for the rest of my life for something I did do. You are here for some absolute bull crap with no evidence, and you're not going to fight to get out,' " Adams told CBS 2 Chicago. "And so it really woke me up."
With the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Adams fought the case, and in 2006, after he'd spent 10 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, an appeals court threw out his conviction.
Since then Adams has been working hard to make up for lost time, and last week he received his law degree from Loyola.
"I couldn't have imagined this day," Adams told the news station.
But Adams isn't stopping there. In August he will serve as a public-interest fellow to U.S. Circuit Judge Ann C. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit—the same court that reversed his wrongful conviction.
Because the position is not paid, Adams has set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising enough funds to pay for his expenses and health insurance during the fellowship.
Currently the biggest contribution has come from Loevy & Loevy, a public-interest law firm where Adams worked as a law clerk. It donated $10,000 toward Adams' $60,000 goal.
One of Adams' law professors acknowledged not only his perseverance but also his ability to press on despite his hardships. "I can't say that if that had happened to me I'd have the same outlook on life that Jarrett does, so it must be something in the core of his being that I would love to be able to bottle," Michael Kaufman told the news station.