Judge overturns murder conviction of man who said he was framed by disgraced former detective

David Colon — who now goes by David Lugo — spent 26 years in prison fighting his conviction and was paroled in 2017.

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David Lugo, pictured in an undated photo provided by the Exoneration Project.

David Lugo

Provided

A Cook County judge has overturned a murder conviction against a man who claimed he was framed by disgraced former Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.

David Colon, who now goes by David Lugo, spent 26 years in prison fighting his conviction and was eventually paroled in 2017.

Lugo was tried and found guilty of the 1991 murder of 16-year-old Michael Velez, who in July that year was riding a bicycle in Logan Square when he was shot multiple times, according to court records.

More than 20 people convicted in cases tied to Guevara have been exonerated, according to the Exoneration Project. Guevara has been repeatedly accused of engaging in misconduct, including fabricating evidence and police reports, and coercing witnesses to make identifications, sometimes using violence, according to court records.

Despite completing his entire sentence, Lugo never gave up his fight to clear his name. When Judge Sophia Atcherson announced her ruling in court Friday, Lugo said he “teared up and felt overwhelmed” with emotion.

“I’m innocent,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times after his hearing. “You just want to prove to everyone you’re not the monster they say.”

Atcherson said in her ruling that Lugo was denied his constitutional right of due process and that newly discovered evidence would “more likely than not” have affected the outcome of his trial, particularly the allegations against Guevara.

“If even a fraction of the allegations included in this evidence had been presented prior to trial, it is more likely than not that Guevara’s credibility would have been destroyed, and any eyewitness identification would have been called into question,” Atcherson wrote, noting there was no DNA evidence or other physical evidence connecting Lugo to the crime.

Lugo’s defense attorney, Russell Ainsworth of the Exoneration Project, said Lugo plans to now seek a certificate of innocence in the case, which will allow him to get his arrest and conviction expunged.

“I’ve kept my head down and just worked,” Lugo said of how he has spent his time since being released from prison. He looks forward to the day he can apply for a job without having to tell them about his murder conviction.

A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the office will appeal Atcherson’s ruling or pursue another case against Lugo. A court date has been set for Aug. 8.

Ainsworth said a second conviction would be all but impossible for the state’s attorney’s office to win given the witnesses who have recanted their testimony and that Guevara, who they claim helped frame Lugo, would likely refuse to testify.

Guevara has declined to answer questions in numerous wrongful conviction cases, citing his right to avoid incriminating himself, including when Lugo’s attorneys questioned him under oath about the case.

Ainsworth said that given Guevara’s track record, the state’s attorney’s office should immediately stop trying to defend convictions in any case associated with him.

“It’s just wrong,” the attorney said.

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