Murder Charges Dropped after Coerced Confession Suppressed
Our Pro Bono Commitment
Jenner & Block Partner Andrew W. Vail led a team that won a key victory for our client and for other prisoners who were convicted based on confessions coerced by controversial former Chicago police detective Reynaldo Guevara. In December 2017, Mr. Vail and Partner David P. Saunders persuaded Cook County Circuit Judge James Obbish to throw out our client’s coerced confession, which was essentially the only evidence against him in a high-profile double-murder case in 1998. Judge Obbish’s ruling came after prosecutors granted Guevara – who earlier had invoked the Fifth Amendment under questioning from Mr. Vail– immunity from prosecution for everything but perjury, only to hear Guevara testify in October 2017 that he did not remember anything about the case. Guevara refused even to examine documents offer to him to refresh his memory. “He showed what he was made of,” Judge Obbish said as quoted in Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times articles, concluding that Guevara had no reason to be evasive. “[Guevara] has now eliminated the possibility of being considered a credible witness in any proceeding.” The judge’s ruling may have an impact on an undetermined number of other persons convicted based on Guevara’s investigative work. On December 21, 2017, prosecutors then dismissed the charges against Mr. Reyes and he was released from IDOC custody for first time in nearly 19 years.
News of the dropped charges was reported by multiple media outlets, ranging from the Chicago Tribune to the Associated Press.
Firm Wins Post-Conviction Relief for Client in Prison Since 2000
The firm team also includes Associates Matthew T. Gordon, Samuel Jahangir and Huiyi Chen and Paralegals Mike Hughes and Nick Perrone.
Mr. Reyes is the second pro bono client for whom Mr. Vail achieved post-conviction relief and freedom in 2017. To read more about the case of Patrick Pursley, please click here.
On June 29, 2016, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Obbish granted post-conviction relief to firm client Arturo Reyes, who has been in prison since 2000, convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and home invasion. His conviction was largely based on a statement he signed after two plus days of questioning by four Chicago police detectives. Prior to his trial, Mr. Reyes unsuccessfully moved to suppress his statement on the ground that it was coerced by an abusive detective, in violation of his due process rights. Notably, no physical evidence connected Mr. Reyes to the crimes for which he was convicted – DNA analysis of evidence from the crime scene connect other people to the murders and do not match Mr. Reyes. He has maintained his innocence.
The firm began representing Mr. Reyes in 2006, shortly after the Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded the dismissal of his initial post-conviction petition. The firm helped Mr. Reyes amend his petition, which ultimately advanced to a third stage evidentiary hearing on the basis of his claim of newly discovered evidence that the detective who interrogated him had engaged in a pattern and practice of abuse and coercion that was not known to Mr. Reyes or the trial court when Mr. Reyes initially moved to suppress his confession.
At the third stage evidentiary proceedings, Partners Andrew W. Vail and David P. Saunders and Associate Michael T. Werner, with attorneys from Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Conviction led by Karen Daniel, who represent Mr. Reyes’ co-petitioner, Gabriel Solache, presented Mr. Reyes, Mr. Solache and several witnesses who testified to the pattern and practice, among other evidence. The lawyers also cross-examined the State’s witnesses and called the interrogating former detective to the stand. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not testify in response to all questions.
Based on the evidence, Judge Obbish determined that Mr. Reyes and Mr. Solache made a substantial showing that they had been denied their constitutional right to due process. He ruled that they are entitled to a new motion to suppress hearing and further found that if the newly discovered evidence had been presented at the suppression hearing, “the outcome of petitioners’ previous motion to suppress likely would have been different.”
The firm team is led by Mr. Vail and includes Mr. Saunders and Mr. Werner, as well as Associate Hillary E. August; Staff Attorney Veronica Maldonado; Paralegal W. Michael Hughes; and Project Assistant Nicholas M. Perrone. Partner David Jiménez-Ekman also contributed to Mr. Reyes’ representation. An article about Mr. Reyes’ case and the winning of a new hearing was published by the Sun-Times.