LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Inmates imprisoned for crimes they did not commit have often sought help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. Co-director Jane Raley was a fierce advocate of the falsely accused and worked at the center for more than a decade. She died on Christmas Day. NPR's Cheryl Corley has this remembrance.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Jane Raley became co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions just a few months ago, along with her longtime colleague, Karen Daniel.
KAREN DANIEL: The word passionate is so overused, but I can't not use it with Jane.
CORLEY: Daniel says Raley was passionate about injustice, tirelessly trying to free inmates who had no one else to speak for them.
DANIEL: And Jane's philosophy was first decide if you believe in the client, and if you do, then find a way.
CORLEY: Before joining the center, Raley represented hundreds of indigent criminal defendants and people sentenced to death. Her husband of 25 years, Jonathan Haile, an assistant U.S. attorney, says his wife's interest in law began early.
JONATHAN HAILE: She read a book by F. Lee Bailey. And there was a trial - I think it was the Silas Jayne murder trial - which she talked to her father into letting her skip school and go down and watch the trial.
CORLEY: Haile says as dedicated as Raley was to the law, her priority was her family, and Raley loved playing the piano with their two children - a son now in college and a daughter in high school. As a law professor, Raley mentored many law school students and some clients felt like family.
JACQUES RIVERA: Well, you know, I called her Aunt Jane.
CORLEY: Forty-nine-year-old Jacques Rivera served 21 years in prison. He was convicted of shooting a 16-year-old to death after a twelve-year-old eyewitness falsely identified him as the murderer. In a 2013 document about the case, Raley recounted how the center found the then-adult eyewitness who recanted his testimony.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY FILM, "WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: THE JACQUES RIVERA STORY")
JANE RALEY: And he started saying things like this is all about redemption. Will he ever forgive me?
CORLEY: Rivera says he formed a close bond with Jane Raley.
RIVERA: I just needed the right people to hear me, and here she came, Jane Raley. Jane does what she does and she worked her magic on it.
CORLEY: Jane Raley was 57; she died of cancer. During her time at the Center on Wrongful Convictions, she was instrumental in the eventual release of nearly a dozen improperly imprisoned men and women. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.