Civil Liberties and Rights of the United States

The United States Constitution has assured the people their own civil liberties and rights. Some of these liberties have given us the rights to believe, to speak, and to freely act. Throughout the history of our state, these liberties have been established, battled for, and even abused. There have been many events in our history where the freedoms created by our founding fathers have been misused. One of the examples where someone’s civil liberties were tested is the court case of Juan Rivera in 1992.

An 11-year-old girl was raped and murdered whilst babysitting two children on August 17th, 1992. After ten weeks past Holly’s death, the investigators began their focus upon Juan Rivera, due to a tip, who at the time was a 19-year-old special education student. He was brought into custody and questioned over a time of four days and was also denied any information of the crime he was brought into question for. After a long four days, he eventually broke down and confessed to the crime.

Rivera signed the confession that the investigators typed up after he confessed by only nodding his head. That document was overflown with wrong information in which the investigators profess was told to them by Rivera. Due to the inconstancies, the case was reopened, and the police resumed their interrogation.

Juan Rivera was an innocent man who was wrongfully convicted for both the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl named Holly Stalker in Waukegan, Illinois. He was falsely convicted not only once, but three times.

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One crucial piece of evidence that helped to prove his innocence was DNA. There was semen that had been found in the young child, Holly Stalker, that undoubtedly did not belong to Juan Rivera. Andrew Martin wrote an article titled “The Prosecution’s Case against DNA” in which he explained what happened to Juan Rivera and several more wrongful sentencing in both Lake County, Illinois, and surrounding counties. The entirety of Martins article made a compelling case that Rivera was indeed innocent of the crime he was sentenced for and how there should be reforms made in Lake County, Illinois.

A reliable piece of evidence in any investigation, when one is available, is DNA testing. In Juan Rivera’s case the DNA was available, and it shown that the semen inside the young girl did not belong to Rivera. Even though Juan Rivera confessed to both the rape and murder of Holly Stalker, it is somewhat difficult to truly believe he did due to the DNA evidence. If you refer to Rivera’s horrendous and all-inclusive confession, “he did not remember if he ejaculated” (Martin). Several problems arise from this statement. The first being that in a psychological sense, a rapist most likely would not ejaculate following the rape of a girl and piercing her body 27 times. Another being that with his confession being so horrendous, the fact that he did not remember if he did or did not ejaculate is very questionable.

I think Juan Rivera’s civil liberties were abused in this case. As I stated before, the investigators wrote his confession and he simply signed it. He probably never knew exactly what all he was falsely confessing to just by signing his name to that document. The investigators found an easy target to blame the charges on. Juan’s freedom of speech was not given to him throughout the entire trial. His voice was never heard because people found it hard to believe him due to his past and someone’s accusation of him. The case was brought to trial three times and those three times he was falsely convicted until the DNA evidence was recognized and proved that he was not the man who raped and killed that young child. Juan Rivera was kept in jail for almost 20 years and the state gave him 20 million dollars for keeping him in there under a crime he did not commit. In my opinion, the state owes him more than money because they took a part of his life away.

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Civil Liberties and Rights of the United States. (2022, Apr 27). Retrieved from

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