Chicago Tribune

Inmate free after 10 years in prison
Retrial held in '93 case after DNA exonerated him

By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 7, 2003

As he waited with his mother outside Cook County Jail on Friday, 12-year-old Dana Holland said all he wanted to do was throw a football around with his dad.

The elder Dana Holland spent the last 10 years in prison before he was cleared in a criminal case this week. For the last four years, he had asked that his son not visit because it was too hard on him.

"This is like my birthday or something," the boy known as "Little Dana" said just before his father's release from Cook County Jail. "I missed him."

The 6th grader's mother, Tina Junior, said she had long awaited Friday's father-son reunion.

"He said last night, `Now I can play football with my dad and I don't have to play with you anymore, Mom,' " Junior said. "Do you know what it's like for me to throw that ball with him for three hours?"

Dana Holland, 35, emerged from the jail before 11 a.m. Friday, a day after a Cook County judge found him not guilty in a retrial on the 1993 attempted murder and armed robbery of a woman in Chicago.

Holland had been linked to that crime by a wallet found at the scene that had belonged to another woman, a rape victim. Holland was originally convicted of that rape, but DNA evidence exonerated him of it earlier this year. He had been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for both crimes.

Holland's lawyers had argued the cases were linked, and that the DNA evidence proved Holland committed neither act. Judge James Linn found Holland not guilty Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

After a paperwork glitch kept Holland behind bars for one extra night, he smiled broadly Friday as he clutched a Bible and gave thanks to God and his attorneys from Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.

"This is what's keeping my sanity and giving me peace," said Holland of his Bible. "When you're wrongfully convicted and locked up, with the conditions in jail, you need peace.

A letter Holland wrote to Northwestern in 2000 led to a new examination of the physical evidence and his second trial.

Prosecutors said the case was brought in good faith and noted that Judge Linn had indicated he was only ruling that there was not enough evidence for a conviction and not that Holland was innocent. The victim of the attempted murder testified against Holland again this week, identifying him in court.

With a decade of incarceration behind him, Holland said Friday his energy would turn quickly to his son and 14-year-old daughter, Simone

"Lost time can never be made up," he said.

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