Omar Aguirre was one of five men wrongfully charged with, and four men wrongfully convicted of, the torture-murder of a 56-year-old furniture dealer, Sindulfo Miranda, in the Logan Square neighborhood on the near northwest side of Chicago in July 1997.
Aguirre was implicated in the case initially by a police informant, Miguel LaSalle, who falsely claimed that he had overheard Aguirre, Edar Duarte Santos
, Luis Ortiz
, Robert Gayol
, and Ronnie Gamboa plot the crime, then saw them with the victim around the time of the crime, and even spoke to one of the men, Santos, via cell phone during the crime. Following Aguirre’s arrest in November 1997, a lengthy police interrogation ensued, resulting in a false confession in which he also implicated Santos.
Ortiz confessed and implicated Gayol, but said he did so only after he was beaten by detectives. Santos confessed to punching the victim, but denied taking part in the murder.
In 1999, Aguirre was convicted by a Cook County Circuit Court jury and sentenced to 55 years in prison. Santos, meanwhile, remained in the Cook County jail awaiting trial. Finally, in 2002, Santos pled guilty in return for a sentence of only 12 years, meaning that, with day-for-day good time, he would be released in 2003.
Ortiz originally was convicted and sentenced to life, but later turned state’s evidence against Gayol in return for having his sentence reduced to 25 years. Gayol was sentenced to life in prison. The fifth accused man, Gamboa, owner of a bar on North California Avenue where LaSalle falsely claimed to have overheard the plot, was acquitted.
The truth came to light when the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago developed evidence that the Miranda crime actually had been one of a string of drug-related kidnappings and torture committed by nine members of the Latin Kings street gang. In 2002, the convictions of Aguirre, Gayol and Santos were vacated. In December, of that year, several Latin King gang members were charged with the murder and later convicted. The U.S. Attorney also charged Miguel LaSalle with making false statements implicating the innocent men in the crime. In February 2003, the prosecution dismissed the charges against Aguirre, Gayol and Santos and Ortiz. LaSalle was acquitted later in 2003.
In 2006, a jury awarded Aquirre, Gayol and Santos $6.74 million in their lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions