Foxx moves to drop charges in 8 murders tainted by former CPD detective Reynaldo Guevara
At least two defendants were expected to be released from prison Tuesday.
Cook County Judge Diana Kenworthy peered down from the bench and told the slender man with a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper goatee standing before her that he had every right to be “bitter.”
“But I hope you’re not, so that you can enjoy the rest of your time,” Kenworthy said. “On behalf of the court, I’m sorry.”
With that, Nelson Gonzalez, 53, left Kenworthy’s courtroom Tuesday to a chorus of cheers and applause. His mother, hobbling on a walker, was there to see it. Gonzalez had finally had his conviction overturned — after spending 22 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit.
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“I feel blessed and I’m humbled because I know what it is to lose it all, and now I have an opportunity to enjoy. I call it my rebirth. Now I’m older, I’m wiser,” Gonzalez said later.
Gonzalez’s case was one of eight murder cases from the 1980s and ’90s that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped Tuesday — based on allegations of misconduct by former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.
Attorneys representing the defendants in hearings at the George M. Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday morning said it was the single-largest mass exoneration of murder cases in the city’s history.
“I’m here to thank Kim Foxx for doing the right thing, and I have a message for Kim Foxx: more. This is just the beginning. There is too much injustice. We need to do more,” said one of those attorneys, Russell Ainsworth, calling Guevara “a stain on the justice system we have to eradicate.”
In each case, the defendants had claimed they were framed by the veteran detective, who retired in 2005 and since has been named in multiple wrongful conviction cases that have cost the city of Chicago more than $70 million in legal costs and settlements.
“We evaluated each case with attention to the facts, the evidence and the law while weighing our commitment to justice and accountability,” Foxx said during a news conference at her downtown office.
“We can no longer stand behind these convictions.”
The state’s attorney has in recent years dropped 32 cases in which Guevara played a critical role. Guevara’s cases have come under attack by lawyers for dozens of defendants, often winning new trials that Foxx’s office has said would be impossible to prosecute again, in part because Guevara has for years refused to answer questions under oath about his past cases.
Dozens of family members and friends of the defendants in the dropped cases filled courtrooms Tuesday. There were shouts of “Thank you, Jesus!” and “Deliverance!” as prosecutors announced they were dropping cases and judges signed off on those decisions.
In 2017, prosecutors called Guevara to the stand at a hearing in a gruesome 1998 double-murder only to have the detective attempt to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, then give evasive answers that led Judge James Obbish to say the detective’s statements were “bald-faced lies” and that Guevara could not be considered a “credible witness in any [legal] proceeding.”
Foxx in 2019 announced a comprehensive review of cases in which allegations of misconduct by Guevara had been raised. Lawyers for dozens of defendants with claims against Guevara have complained that none of the convictions should stand and have criticized the pace of Foxx’s investigations.
Three of the defendants whose cases were dismissed still are serving prison sentences: Carlos Andino, sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1994; Alfredo Gonzalez, serving a life sentence he began in 1990; and Louis Robinson, serving a 60-year sentence dating to 1996.
Alfredo Gonzalez and Andino were expected to be released later Tuesday. The judge in Robinson’s case set an Aug. 15 date to hear arguments on the matter of dismissing the charges.
David Colon served 26 years on a 1991 conviction. Johnny Flores served 20 years. Marilyn Mulero served 28 years for a 1992 case, including five years on death row. Jaime Rios served 18 years dating to a 1989 arrest.
Nelson Gonzalez said life has been a “struggle” since he was released from prison in 2016. His conviction has made it hard to find work. He says he’d eventually like to become a lawyer. He missed much while he was locked up, including the last few years of the life of his father, who died in 2013.
“I was able to see him before he passed. They gave me a furlough...but he was already in his last stages of [Alzheimer’s disease],” Gonzalez said.
He has three children, all grown up.
“I’m not going to lie — we are having problems adjusting,” he said. “Because they are like, ‘We’ve heard of you, but we don’t know who you are.’ ”