CHICAGO (CBS) — Seven convictions were overturned in a day Tuesday in Cook County Criminal Court – in what was believed to be the largest mass-exoneration for murder in US history.
Prosecutors had determined the cases had been irreparably tainted by disgraced former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Cook County State’s attorney Kim Foxx said her office supported vacating seven convictions, because evidence of Guevara’s misconduct was all too clear, after her office has spent years reviewing claims he routinely framed suspects and manipulated evidence.
“We no longer believe in the validity of these convictions or the credibility of the evidence of these convictions,” Foxx said Tuesday morning.
Guevara’s victims are now experiencing freedom – some for the first time in decades. CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman talked with one of them – Alfredo “Freddie” Gonzalez, who served his sentence at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.
González said, “I’m free!” as he tearfully embraced his daughter, Maria. It was a moment more than 30 years in the making.
He found himself face-to-face with generations’ worth of his family. His grandson grew up on him in the time he was imprisoned.
Gonzalez spent 32 of his 64 years behind bars – three decades of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.
“I had a broken heart, because I wasn’t attentive,” Gonzalez said. “Now that I’m here, I get to do this to my youngest son.”
He affectionately pulled his adult son’s beard.
Gonzalez was one of the seven people released because of the police detective who handled his case. Year eight could happen any day now.
Also exonerated Tuesday was Nelson Gonzalez, who spent 21 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He did not thin words about who he thinks is to blame.
“This was a conspiracy created by Mr. Guevara and other agents, and I’m asking Kim Foxx to press charges,” Nelson Gonzalez said.
Marilyn Mulero served 27 years for a shooting that left two men dead in 1992.
“I did several years on Death Row for a crime I didn’t commit,” she said. “I stayed strong. I maintained my faith in God.”
Five of the eight wrongfully convicted had been released in recent years. Two more were released Tuesday, and an eighth is expected to be released soon.
Wrongful conviction settlements tied to Guevara have already cost taxpayers at least $37 million. And Guevara has never spoken about the cases in court.
Foxx said claims against the former detective range from manipulating witnesses to fabricating evidence.
“We got to this place because you have a corrupt police officer – a corrupt detective – who chose to engage in this type of behavior,” Foxx said, “and his harm is not just to those who may have been imprisoned for crime they didn’t ‘t commit, but to families who are looking for justice for the loss of their loved ones.”
And now, with more victims still behind bars, some are calling for Guevara to face the same jail time they themselves have.
The CBS 2 Investigators have been covering some of the Guevara cases.
Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano are two of those who spent decades in prison for a 1993 murder they did not commit.
“He destroyed families. It isn’t right,” Serrano said of Guevara in 2016.
last month,after their cases were overturned. They have said Guevara framed them, and prosecutors have said they would not seek to try them again.
Days later, Eruby Abrego also was released from prison,
There have been 24 vacant convictions tied to Guevara – and three more could be coming.
The State’s Attorney pointed out there might be issues with the statute of limitations to prosecute Guevara. She said he retired years ago, but is still receiving a pension – and has moved to San Antonio, Texas.