Juan Johnson (center) received $21 million in 2009 for a wrongful conviction. | SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO
Updated: June 15, 2013 6:18AM
In Brooklyn, the district attorney’s office has ordered that about 50 murder cases — all linked to one detective — be reviewed because of questions about the officer’s tactics. Cook County, which also has a number of controversial cases linked to a single detective, should order a similar review.
Dozens of defendants and witnesses over the years have alleged that retired Area 5 Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara beat and threatened them into making false statements. That doesn’t mean the allegations are true. But there are enough complaints to make these cases ideal candidates for the state’s attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which was set up last year to re-examine instances where justice might have gone off the rails.
In one Guevara case, Juan Johnson in 2009 was awarded $21 million in compensatory damages for a wrongful conviction. His attorneys claimed Guevara had framed him.
Two other cases in which Guevara was involved will be in court in coming days. In one, to be heard on Wednesday, a witness signed an affidavit saying he falsely testified that defendant Armando Serrano and others confessed to him after Guevara fed him a story while hitting and poking him in the head. In the other, to be heard next Tuesday, Gabriel Solache alleges he confessed only after Guevara isolated and beat him for more than 40 hours.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions, which represents Solache, has filed a motion citing at least 40 other allegations of Guevara engaging in physical abuse and verbal threats.
Guevara’s lawyer Jim Sotos has claimed gang leaders used threats to persuade witnesses to allege abuses by Guevara. Maybe an investigation would show that happened in some — or all — of the cases.
But we also might find innocent men are sitting in prison, just as we did with convictions obtained through torture by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Let’s take a careful look.