State’s Attorney Drops Murder Charges on Appeal
In what may be a case of false imprisonment, two men are free after 23 years in prison, after Chicago prosecutors dropped murder charges against them, The Chicago Tribune reports. The men are Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office decided to drop the charges because prosecutors could no longer carry the burden of proof necessary to uphold the conviction. The decision came after an appeals court judge issued a ruling which found that “profoundly alarming acts of misconduct” had led to the arrest.
Investigating Officer Pays Out in Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit
Over two decades ago, prosecutors convicted the two of the 1993 murder of Rodrigo Vargas in Humboldt Park. The conviction rested on evidence provided by former Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Guevara was a West Side police officer whose work has attracted increasing criticism from the courts. Guevara allegedly arrested Serrano and Montanez on the basis of a tip he received from an informant, who later confessed that Guevara provided the story to the informant.
The informant says that Guevara threatened and intimidated him to force him to give false testimony, according to ABC 7 Chicago. Authorities have previously released another person, Juan Johnson, that Guevara investigated for a 1989 murder. Johnson won a $21 million dollar wrongful conviction lawsuit against Guevara. Kimberly Foxx will take over the State’s Attorney’s Office in December, and plans to review the cases of at least two other men in prison for crimes that Guevara investigated.
Illinois Appeals Courts Can Reverse Trial Court Convictions
Under Illinois Law, all appeals of criminal verdicts go to the Illinois Appellate Court. The State can appeal when a court dismisses a charge, or effectively does so by suppressing evidence from an arrest, quashing a warrant, etc. If the state appeals, the defendant usually goes free from jail during the appeal. The time that passes during the appeal doesn’t count toward time served for the purposes of obtaining discharge if a court later convicts the defendant. If a defendant pleads guilty, they can appeal the sentence, or try to withdraw the plea. If the defendant appeals a guilty verdict, they do not go free during the appeal process.
During the appeal, the defendant’s attorney can bring to the attention of the Appellate Court any errors in the trial that substantially affected the defendant’s rights. The Appellate Court has a wide variety of options if they find that important mistakes occurred at the trial court level. The Appellate Court can reverse the judgment of the trial court, reduce the conviction to a lesser offense, reduce the defendant’s sentence, or order a new trial. United States federal law allows individuals who have suffered from wrongful imprisonment to sue those responsible for money damages, including attorney’s fees.
Serrano and Montanez Could Sue for Wrongful Conviction
Because the trial court convicted Serrano and Montanez of murder, they went to prison while their appeal was taking place. The fact that the only evidence against them at the trial court turned out to be a perjury would probably be a big enough error for the Appellate Court to reverse their convictions. The State’s Attorney probably decided to drop the charges rather than waste any more time in court awaiting a reversal. In cases like that of Serrano and Montanez, a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department for wrongful imprisonment could succeed, since the actions of the detective deprived them of significant rights.
Get Legal Help
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted, you need expert legal help. Contact an experienced criminal appeals attorney at Barney & Hourihane today to get the justice you deserve.
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