Juan Rivera was exonerated three years ago when DNA evidence cleared him of the 1992 murder of which he had been convicted. Now, in a federal lawsuit, Rivera's attorneys say they can prove police tried to frame Rivera, the Chicago Tribune reports. Before Rivera's trial, police and prosecutors planned to use a pair of shoes as evidence; they said the shoes belonged to Rivera and were stained with the blood of the victim, 11-year-old Holly Staker, who was raped and stabbed while babysitting in a Chicago suburb. Just one problem: The black Voit high-tops in question weren't for sale anywhere in the US until after Holly's murder. An investigator for the public defender's office went to the Walmart where Rivera's mother claimed to have purchased the shoes, and the cash register tape showed they hadn't been bought until after the murder.
This much was known before Rivera's first trial (he ultimately had three)—after one of his attorneys told the court that the defense team would call a witness who would testify that the shoes hadn't been for sale when Holly was murdered, the prosecution decided not to use the shoes as evidence, and the judge said, "It sounds like the shoes don't have anything to do with it." But new DNA testing on the shoes has shown, for the first time, that Holly's blood on the shoes is mixed in with another substance—a substance that matches the genetic profile of an unidentified suspect whose semen was found in Holly's body. "The only realistic inference from the foregoing evidence is that someone endeavored to plant Holly Staker's blood on Mr. Rivera's Voit shoes and in doing so inadvertently planted both her blood there and the blood of the as-yet unidentified killer," Rivera's lawyers write in a court filing. Rivera served almost 20 years in prison, CBS Chicago reports. (Click to read about a potential break in another high-profile cold case.)