Exonerated Illinois man awarded $20M could split settlement

Juan Rivera, center, who wrongfully served more than 19 years in prison for the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old Waukegan girl, stands with attorneys Jon Loevy, left, and Locke Bowman, during a 2015 news conference in Chicago.  - Associated Press
Juan Rivera, center, who wrongfully served more than 19 years in prison for the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old Waukegan girl, stands with attorneys Jon Loevy, left, and Locke Bowman, during a 2015 news conference in Chicago. - Associated Press

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man who was awarded $20 million after he was wrongfully convicted in the death of an 11-year-old Waukegan girl may have to split the money as part of a divorce case.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Juan Rivera was imprisoned for 20 years before DNA evidence cleared him of Holly Staker’s killing. Now an Illinois appeals court has ruled that the settlement proceeds are “marital property.”

Rivera’s attorney Michael Berger says the ruling is a further injustice to his client and that he intends to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

If the ruling stands, the trial lawyer in the divorce could determine how much of the settlement money Melissa Sanders-Rivera, Rivera’s estranged wife, will receive.

Rivera filed for divorce in July 2014, two and a half years after his release.

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