Articles Tagged with wrongful conviction

In a final push to revisit cases in which former Chicago police officer Ronald Watts was involved, the State Attorney’s office reversed course and agreed to vacate 44 convictions. Almost every case that was tied to the former officer has been reviewed. Many convictions have been vacated on appeal after allegations that torture and coercion led to convictions. Watts was also implicated in planting evidence.

Initially, prosecutors appeared ready to defend these cases due to the fact that other officers who were not involved with Watts also contributed to the conviction. However, the DA reversed course and decided to vacate the convictions on the basis that even his cursory involvement was enough to taint the case. A total of 100 convictions have been vacated against 88 defendants as part of an exoneration review of Watts’ cases. Three convictions not associated with exoneration efforts have also been vacated. According to the State Attorney’s office, 212 convictions have been vacated due to Watts’ criminal police work. Only a handful of convictions now remain before the court. 

The officers, many of whom remain on the force, were accused of running a protection racket from a South Side public housing complex. They forced drug dealers to pay a “tax” and pinned bogus charges on anyone who did not. 

A Chicago man who was convicted as a teen for murder will now be freed from prison after his conviction was overturned after 37 years behind bars. The National Registry of Exonerations reported that this was the 3,000th conviction lifted since 1989 when the registry began tracking overturned convictions. The suspect was released from prison after 30 years behind bars, but not because his conviction was overturned — because he was paroled. He will now have the conviction expunged from his record, for all the good it will do him, and he will seek a certificate of innocence from the state. 

The defendant was framed by a group of rogue officers operating within Chicago P.D. during the late 80s. The police found the teen walking down the street, beat him, and charged him with murder. The group resorted to framing, planting evidence, and gaining confessions through torture and beatings. 

Exculpatory evidence had been suppressed at the original trial and the defense attorney representing the wrongfully-convicted defendant said he did not know about witness testimony that would have tied another man to the shooting. 

A jury found that a defendant who spent more than 20 years behind bars for a double murder was intentionally framed for the incident by police. The defendant was awarded a new trial after he successfully argued that his criminal defense attorney failed to call witnesses to the stand that would have corroborated his alibi. These witnesses claimed that the defendant was inside of a restaurant playing Pac Man at the time of the double shooting. The only witness that the prosecution offered was a man who was allegedly shot by the defendant during the double murder and the brother of one of the victims. It was the defendant who called police to the scene of the crime to report the shooting. Let that be a lesson on the perils of involving police in any matter at all.

After vacating his conviction, the defendant filed a lawsuit against Chicago police and the city. The complaint alleged that the arresting officer called the suspect a racial epithet and said that no one cares about Black people, which is why the officers would get away with it. A federal jury returned an award of $25.2 million to the plaintiff. 

The lineup

Several former defendants who were convicted on charges related to a single officer are now plaintiffs in lawsuits against the city claiming that they were framed. If you think it is hard to prove a defendant did something wrong, then you should consider how difficult it is to prove that a police officer framed a defendant. In this case, four men settled lawsuits for sums between $17 million and $21 million against the City of Chicago for false convictions, cooked evidence, and losing years of their lives to false accusations of a single police officer.

There are still eleven lawsuits pending against the same officer, all of which name the city and not the officer. Ultimately, the City of Chicago and its taxpayers will be responsible for making the victims whole. With 11 pending cases, all settling for $20 million or more apiece, the City of Chicago is looking at a $300 million budget shortfall all related to the activities of one police officer.

Hundreds of “confessions” tossed

Prosecutors and judges are in a squabble over whether or not two men who were convicted of murder should have their sentences vacated and be allowed to go free. The prosecutors were ready and willing to drop the charges against Wayne Antusas and Nicholas Morfin. However, a judge blocked them from doing so after prosecutors agreed that their cases were on shaky ground, and the men were likely convicted unjustly.

Kim Foxx’s State’s Attorney’s Office won reelection after campaigning on a progressive line of overturning wrongful convictions. Cook County, once known as the wrongful conviction capital of the United States, now hopes to be the beacon of the future when it comes to criminal justice.

The Case

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201A 1991 case involving Reynaldo Guevera has been overturned amid allegations of misconduct. Indeed, there are attorneys right now who only handle cases related to disgraced Chicago detectives and their shoddy and criminal police work.

Most recently, Demetrius Johnson will be allowed to move forward with a new trial after an appellate judge granted his request. Yet this time, Cook County prosecutors will move forward with retrying the case as opposed to dropping the charges against Johnson. 

The defendant’s criminal defense attorney express confusion over the decision to press forward with the trial. Not only is it a major cost to the taxpayers, but it also depletes the resources of the prosecutor’s office. Any evidence that was presented by Guevera will be considered tainted. This will require the prosecution to present evidence at trial that is either not linked to Guevera or is linked to Guevera, but the defense will have the opportunity to attack the credibility of that evidence.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225If you have had to serve a prison sentence, then you know the significant emotional and psychological toll you and your family have had to endure, not to mention the loss in terms of time and money. In Chicago, unfortunately, too many citizens are being jailed for crimes they did not commit. The city currently is dealing with dozens of cases from the past in which citizens were wrongly convicted and imprisoned. At the same time, innocent victims, with the help of experienced attorneys, can pursue justice and potentially receive lucrative payouts from the city for having their rights violated years or even decades prior.

The Implications of a Wrongful Conviction

Legally speaking, when police officers arrest and prosecute someone for a crime in Chicago, the law requires probable cause. Yet, too often, the city’s law enforcement officers engage in false arrests, malicious criminal prosecution, and wrongful convictions. As a result, too many innocent people end up spending months and sometimes years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225If you have been following the news in Chicago lately, then you know that too many citizens have been wrongly convicted over decades and are now just beginning to receive justice. Recently, the city vacated 15 convictions of innocent citizens that were framed by the Chicago Police Department.

In the event of a wrongful conviction, you and your family have likely lost precious time and financial resources for years and even decades. However, rest assured that you have rights and that you are entitled by law to claims for past and future financial compensation for the injustice you endured. Learn what you can do to file a claim and how a law firm can facilitate the process for you in receiving the financial compensation you deserve.

What is the Significance of a Wrongful Conviction?

DSC_0289Our system of law and order works pretty well, most of the time. After an arrest, it is up to the prosecutor to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused is the perpetrator of the crime. The defendant is entitled to be judged by his peers, and he is entitled to be represented by an attorney of his choosing during every aspect of the criminal proceedings up to and including trial of the matter; and to be able to present to the court any evidence of applicable defenses. However, sometimes there is a glitch in the system, a miscarriage of justice that results in the conviction and incarceration of an innocent person. Tragically, there are cases where a person convicted of a crime, has served years in prison for a crime he or she did not commit. The wrongfully accused can never get those years back, but may be entitled to compensation.

The State of Florida vs. Bain

In 1974, James Bain was convicted of breaking and entering, kidnapping, and rape, and was sentenced to life in prison. Bain maintained his innocence throughout, and after serving 35 years of the life sentence, his innocence was proven by DNA evidence.

Facing a Chicago murder charge can carry significant consequences.

It has been over a decade since the disappearance of 24-year-old Washington, D.C. intern Chandra Levy, but the case is back in the national spotlight as questions continue to swirl concerning the guilt of Ingmar Guandique, the Salvadorian illegal immigrant convicted of killing Levy in 2010.


The Chandra Levy case, which captured national attention due to its mystery, intrigue, and political ties, is back in court due to the fact that defense attorneys for Ingmar Guandique have called into question the testimony of a star prosecution witness, Armando Morales.  Numerous hearings have been held on the matter but, until now, the proceedings were kept secret due to concerns for Morales safety.  On July 29, 2013, however, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher ordered the release of the transcripts of these previously confidential hearings.  While it is unclear how much new information these documents will contain, they should be available by the end of the week.

Ingmar Guandique was charged with the death of Chandra Levy in 2009, seven years after Levy’s remains were found in a Washington, D.C. area park.  Guandique, then 20 years old, was already in jail for attacking two women in the very same park where Chandra Levy’s body was found.  From the start, he adamantly denied murdering Chandra Levy.  During his trial, the prosecution presented the crucial testimony of Armando Morales, Guandrique’s one time cell mate, also a convicted felon and gang member, who told the jury that Guandique confessed to him to killing Chandra Levy.

Guandrique’s defense attorneys state that the unsealed documents will reveal Morales made contradictory statements at trial.  For instance, Morales testified at trial that he had never come forward to law enforcement before as he did not trust them.  However, the defense recently learned Morales had discussed three murders with law enforcement officers and informed them of drugs and weapons dealings occurring in the prison in which he was housed.

Guandrique’s defense team plans to request a new trial based on this previously undiscovered information affecting Morales’ credibility.  The motion will likely be filed in October or November of this year.

Here are a few points to take away from the Ingmar Guandrique Case:

  • A conviction does not have to be final–with a strong, dedicated defense team a guilty verdict is not irreversible, even in a high-profile Chicago murder case.  An experienced defense attorney will continue to fight for your case and diligently search for new evidence that might warrant a new trial.
  • Witness credibility is crucial—in so many cases like Guandrique’s, witness testimony is one of, if not the deciding factor of, an individual’s guilt.  Given the potential for witnesses to lie or be less than fully honest – particularly jail house informants like Morales – it is absolutely critical for your defense attorney to test the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses.  This is accomplished through thorough discovery, extensive preparation, and effective cross-examination.
  • Wrongful convictions do happen—although Guandrique’s defense team still faces an uphill battle in proving he deserves a new trial, his case does serve to highlight the fact that wrongful convictions can occur; and do in fact occur more often than we would like to believe.  Wrongful convictions are frequently a result of poor lawyering, such as an attorney’s failure to fully investigate and prepare his client’s defense.  This makes it imperative to obtain the representation of a skilled, experienced, and dedicated defense attorney.

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