Chicago mom freed after serving 7 years on wrongful conviction - KMSP-TV

Chicago mom freed after serving 7 years on wrongful conviction

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A Chicago mom who gave a false confession of strangling her 4-year-old is now a free woman.

Nicole Harris was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for her son's death. She was released back in February and on Monday, the Cook County state's attorney decided not to go through with a second trial. All charges against Harris have been dropped.

Balloons and streamers decorated the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions Monday.

"I was just glad to finally be free," Harris says. "There's nothing hanging over my head anymore."

Harris says she was coerced into giving Chicago police a false confession after she was interrogated for 27 hours after her son Jaquari Dancy's death.

Her attorneys say key testimony from her older son Diante was not used during her trial.

"A lot of people may not understand it. I did not understand false confessions either, at one point," Harris explains. "It was just a thing of, how do you say that you did something that you did not do? I never understood that until it happened to me."

Harris sought help from Northwestern University who turned to attorneys to help Harris in her case. They say she isn't alone.

"False confessions happen and Chicago has been labeled the false confession capital," says Steve Drizin, the Legal Director for the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Lawyers are concerned that many exonerations happen when DNA evidence is able to dispute charges. Harris' case had no DNA.

"I am hopeful that the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the courts will take a close look at many of those cases in the same way they look at cases where there is DNA evidence because there are many, many more Nicole Harris' out there."

Harris says she plans on going back to school to work on her master's degree in community counseling. She's thrilled to be able to get back to work and spend time with her now teenaged son.

Since Nicole Harris' arrest in 2005, Illinois passed a law mandating investigators to videotape interrogations in all homicide cases.

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