A man who claims a retired Chicago detective beat him into a false murder confession is expected to have his 1998 conviction tossed later today.
The man’s attorney said he planned to call retired detective Reynaldo Guevara to testify today at a scheduled hearing about whether he repeatedly beat the defendant, Ariel Gomez, and whether Guevara coerced witnesses into falsely identifying Gomez as the man whose bullet killed a bystander at a bus stop.
Gomez’s attorney, David Owen, said the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed Gomez’s case ahead of the planned hearing and opted to “do the right thing,” he said, by announcing plans to vacate Gomez’s conviction.
Guevara has been accused by at least 56 people of framing them for murders they say they did not commit. When called to testify in various cases, the detective has repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent. In October, prosecutors offered him an immunity deal in exchange for testimony that a Cook County Circuit Court judge later called “bald-faced lies.”
Gomez, 38, is on parole after serving 20 years behind bars.
Should prosecutors toss the conviction, Gomez will become the seventh Guevara defendant exonerated since Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx took office in December 2016. Foxx pledged to review the Guevara cases when she campaigned for the office.
Gomez was 17 in June 1997 when he and several of his friends went joyriding to celebrate the Chicago Bulls winning their fifth NBA championship. As he drove through a crowd of revelers, his car was struck by bricks. He reacted by firing a handgun into the air, an act he admits was “juvenile,” according to legal papers.
Not far from where Gomez was driving, an immigrant laborer from Mexico, Concepcion Diaz, waited for the bus at a busy intersection to take him home from work. A bullet struck and killed him as he stood on the corner.
Gomez’s attorneys said they were prepared to present new analyses of bullet types and trajectories that would show that Gomez couldn’t have fired the fatal shot.
Three witnesses provided sworn statements that Guevara pressured them into identifying Gomez. One of those witnesses said she told Guevara that a different person had fired the shot; she said Guevara told her that if she refused to follow the script, the investigation wouldn't be needing her testimony. Moreover, a court dismissed the conviction of Gomez’s codefendant and passenger because it found that there was insufficient evidence that Gomez was the shooter.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to BuzzFeed News’s queries about Gomez’s case, and attorneys for Guevara did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Foxx previously told BuzzFeed News that prosecutors have asked the Cook County Commission for more money to help them review Guevara’s convictions.
Melissa Segura is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News.
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