Evan Griffith was born in Belize and immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old. Traveling with his older sister, he was the last of his large family to make the trip. The family settled into a small town outside of Philadelphia. Subsequently, from his family and others, Mr. Griffith suffered significant abuse, causing him to flee his family when he was 14 years old. He went to Chicago, to join a much older sister.

In 1984, when he was 16 years old, Mr. Griffith was arrested for murder in Cook County, and was convicted the next year. He pled guilty and received a sentence of 35 years, to be served at a prison in Livingston County, Illinois. Five years later, in a prison fight, Mr. Griffith defended himself from an assault that left his attacker dead. At 20 years of age, after considering the murder conviction in Cook County, Mr. Griffith was found guilty by an all-white jury and sentenced to death. Two days later, Mr. Griffith received a letter from his attorney celebrating the successful appeal of his charge in Cook County and that he would be granted a new trial.

Over the next 20 years, Mr. Griffith’s two charges would be challenged at every opportunity, even while both counties tried to use the other’s conviction to enhance the sentence. A re-trial in 1998 imposed a life sentence for the offense in Cook County. Sentences were upheld, and appealed. In 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences, affecting Mr. Griffith’s case (from Livingston County). In 2011, in federal court, the sentence attached to his conviction in Cook County was successfully attacked on appeal and Mr. Griffith was granted a new trial. Since his sentence in Livingston County had been predicated on a prior offense, Mr. Griffith immediately asked for a sentencing review hearing in Livingston County, which was granted. At that hearing, a judge found Mr. Griffith completely rehabilitated and imposed the minimum sentence of 20 years.

In 2012, while waiting for his new trial in Cook County, the Supreme Court published its opinion in Miller v. Alabama. Mr. Griffith’s attorneys filed an emergency motion for immediate release since he was no longer eligible for natural life sentence and the maximum time that he could receive from Cook County was already served. Mr. Griffith was the first person freed under the Miller decision. He had served 29 years in prison.

Today, Mr. Griffith is the Administrative Coordinator for the Executive Floor at the Exelon Corporation, working at their corporate headquarters are in downtown Chicago. Cook County has the highest number of juveniles serving mandatory life sentences of any single jurisdiction in the country. These sentences will now be reviewed pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana, published in January 2015.

We are thrilled to have Mr. Griffith speak about his extraordinary life experiences as the Banquet Speaker at the NAPD Managers’ & Supervisor’s Institute at Valparaiso Law School on March 8, 2016.