Grover Thompson, a Black man who was wrongfully convicted of a 1981 attempted murder, has finally been exonerated 23 years after dying in prison and over a decade after the real killer confessed to the crime. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently granted the innocent man posthumous clemency, which made history as the first ever in the state’s history.Days before leaving office, Gov. Bruce Rauner granted Thompson executive clemency, which he initially denied back in 2015. It marks the first posthumous exoneration in Illinois and the 21st in the whole country.
The exoneration came 23 years after Thompson’s death in 1996 while serving a 40-year sentence for an attempted murder he didn’t commit. In 2007, Timothy Krajcir confessed that he was the one who committed the crime of stabbing the victim.
“Uncle Grover suffered a tragedy that never should have happened,” Thompson’s nephew, S.T. Jamison said in a statement. “He was an innocent black man just trying to get home to his family and he never came home.”
In 1981, Thompson, who was then 46 years old, was accused of the stabbing and attempted rape of Ida White, a then-72-year-old white woman. White, who is now deceased, said she was attacked and stabbed in her bathroom. She and a neighbor who tried to help her during the attack described the suspect as a Black man.
Around that time, Thompson was taking a nap at a bench near White’s house after traveling to visit his family in Mississippi. Even though he doesn’t match the attacker’s described clothing, Thompson, who is a Black man, was arrested due to wrong identifications. Krajcir, the real killer, is white but he had dark hair and dark complexion.
Retired Carbondale Police Lt. Paul Echols was previously investigating on Krajcir’s murders when he discovered the truth about Thompson’s case. He said Krajcir admitted to the said crime when “he was offered a deal to avoid the death penalty to tell all.”
However, Krajcir’s confession was a decade too late. Prison has already worn out Thompson until he died.
“Let’s be honest. This wrongful conviction was essentially a death sentence for him,” said John Hanlon, the Legal and Executive Director of the Illinois Innocence Project, told CBS News. “We found that, not surprisingly, that there were extremely unreliable identification procedures that were utilized that led to Grover Thompson’s arrest.”
Although the exoneration can never bring back Thompson’s life, his family is thankful for it.
“We cannot bring this beautiful man back, whom we love so much, but we can clear his name,” Jamison said. “This is so momentous for me and for my family.”
Meanwhile, Krajcir, a serial killer, was never convicted in connection to the said crime but he is currently in prison for several other murders