The murder charges against Armando Serrano, 44, and Jose Montanez, 49, were dropped on Wednesday after an appeals court ruling stated “profoundly alarming acts of misconduct in the underlying investigation and prosecution” prompted the convictions. The pair spent 23 years in prison for the 1993 slaying of Rodrigo Vargas. A Chicago detective, Reynaldo Guevara, is at the center of these allegations of misconduct. He has been retired for over a decade.
The key witness in the case, Francisco Vicente, was facing four felony charges when he claims Detective Guevara approached him. Detective Guevara negotiated a lighter sentence and gave Vicente gifts in exchange for his testimony against Serrano and Montanez. In 2004, the Medill Innocence Project held a series of interviews with Vicente, who testified that Serrano and Montanez confessed the crime to him.
There have been two other cases Detective Guevara worked on that have been overturned, and dozens of allegations against him have been made, including coercing confessions and framing.
Melissa D. Cooper
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