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Top Chicago-area prosecutor drops 8 murder cases connected to former detective accused of police misconduct

<i>Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/ZUMA Press</i><br/>
Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/ZUMA Press

By Steve Almasy, CNN

Seven murder convictions tied to a former Chicago detective were vacated Tuesday after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to oppose petitions by defense attorneys alleging investigatory misconduct by the disgraced officer.

The cases are the latest tied to former detective Reynaldo Guevara’s alleged police misconduct that ranged from coercive interrogation tactics to hiding evidence, according to State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Two people were expected to be released Tuesday while five others had already been released from prison, Foxx’s office said in a release. An eighth person whose case the prosecutor has dropped remained in custody “pending further court hearings,” according to the release.

“We are not taking a position on innocence. What we are saying is that we cannot stand by these convictions based on the serious allegations of misconduct and findings of credibility against Detective (Reynaldo) Guevara,” Foxx said at a news conference Tuesday.

The eight people each served decades in prison. The convictions were handed down for homicides that occurred between 1989 and 1996, Foxx told reporters.

Guevara also has been accused of intimidating witnesses and falsifying evidence in multiple cases dating back more than 30 years. An Illinois Appellate Court opinion in one case said, “Guevara has a history of influencing witnesses,” while another called Guevara “a malignant blight on the Chicago Police Department and the judicial system.”

CNN reached out to attorneys for Guevara for comment Wednesday.

The state’s attorney said her office hasn’t charged Guevara and there are statute-of-limitations concerns.

One of the five people who had already been released was Nelson Gonzalez. According to CNN affiliate WBBM, he spent 21 years in prison.

“I’m here today to, first of all, thank God,” Gonzalez said at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, where his conviction was dismissed Tuesday. “This was a conspiracy created by Mr. Guevara and other agents.”

Before Tuesday, 24 other cases had been dismissed in recent years because of Guevara’s involvement, the state’s attorney said. Three others could be resolved within a few weeks, she said.

The Exoneration Project, which has represented four of the seven people exonerated Tuesday, tweeted that more than 30 people connected to Guevara investigations have had their convictions overturned after wrongly serving a combined total of more than 500 years in prison.

Foxx also said she understood the frustration and pain of the families of the murder victims.

“It is why it is incumbent on us to remind people that we got to this place because we had a corrupt … detective who chose to engage in this type of behavior. And his harm is not just to those who may have been in prison for crimes that they didn’t commit, but to families who are looking for justice for the loss of their loved ones.”

Her office cannot retry the defendants involved because of the questionable work of Guevara, she said. “It does not mean that there can’t be additional investigations to see if in fact someone else committed these crimes,” Foxx added.

According to Foxx, Guevara retired in 2005 and draws a pension. In 2013, the city hired an investigator to look into his cases and the two-year probe found problems, Foxx said.

Foxx became state’s attorney in 2016 and her office began its investigation in 2019.

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CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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