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Loyola University Chicago

School of Law

James Kluppelberg


‌JAMES KLUPPELBERG
was wrongfully convicted of an arson that killed six people and injured one other on Chicago’s south side in 1984.

Gayle Horn of the Exoneration Project and attorney Karl Leonard of Winston and Strawn brought forth new evidence eventually overturning James' conviction.

During the initial investigation, police determined that the fire was an accident. Four years later, a witness avoided prison time on burglary and theft charges by falsely claiming that he watched Kluppelberg go back and forth to the scene of the fire from an attic window. However, aerial photographs showed that the view from the attic window was blocked by another building. The witness has since admitted that he lied. Also, former Fire Department employee, Francis Burns, posited that the fire was started by igniting a pile of newspapers or rags and that alleged burn patterns demonstrated that the fire was an arson. Advances in science have proven that Mr. Burns’ arson theory is impossible. Students working with the Exoneration Project also uncovered evidence that another person may have been involved in starting the fire, evidence that had not been previously disclosed to Mr. Kluppelberg.

On May 30, 2012 a Cook County Judge vacated his conviction and his charges were dropped, freeing him from prison after 24 years behind bars.  James is currently living in Indiana and seeking a job in hotel maintenance.

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