Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Thaddeus Jimenez

Other Chicago Exonerations With Mistaken Identifications
On the evening of February 3, 1993, teenagers Eric Morro and Larry Tueffel were walking east on Belmont Avenue when they were accosted by another teenager, Juan Carlos Torres, and 12-year-old Victor Romo.  After a brief altercation in front of the Honey Baked Ham Store, Torres pulled a gun and shot Morro in the chest.

An eyewitness, Sandra Elder, called police later that night and identified 13-year-old Thaddeus Jimenez as the gunman.  She had seen the shooting from across Belmont as she was exiting a lounge.

Police took Tueffel and Phil Torres, who witnessed the shooting from the third floor of the store, to the police station for questioning.  Neither of the boys identified Jimenez as the shooter.  The next morning, Phil Torres called the police department and stated that he “now remembers” that Jimenez was the perpetrator.  After further questioning, Tueffel also changed his story and implicated Jimenez.
Chicago police officers arrested Jimenez and charged him with Morro’s murder.  They did not test his clothing or hands for gunshot residue.
Romo, an original suspect in the murder, told his father, Ezequiel, about the shooting and identified Juan Carlos Torres as the boy who killed Morro. Ezequiel met with Torres and secretly tape-recorded the conversation during which Torres confessed to the killing.  A copy of the tape was given to the Assistant State’s Attorney, who passed it on to the police investigating Jimenez’s case.  At a follow-up interview, Juan denied the conversation, and the police ceased their investigation into his possible involvement.
After a hearing before Juvenile Court Judge Arthur Rosenblum, Jimenez was transferred to Criminal Court and in October 1994, he was tried for Morro’s murder. Judge Christy Berkos excluded the tape-recorded confession by Juan Torres on hearsay grounds and, despite alibi testimony of five different family members and friends that he was at his grandmother’s house at the time of the murder, the jury found Jimenez guilty and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
On December 3, 1996, Jimenez’s conviction was reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court  because his defense was not allowed to question prospective jurors about possible prejudice against gang members.  On re-trial, despite the testimony of Victor Romo that Jimenez was not the shooter and the testimony of alibi witnesses, Jimenez was again found guilty and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
In 2007, Tueffel and Elder recanted their testimony to Jimenez’s attorneys from Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the law firm of Katten Muchin, LLP.  Following the arrest of Juan Carlos Torres on a probable cause warrant, and with the support of the State’s Attorney’s Office,  Judge Joseph Claps of the Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit Court vacated Jimenez’s conviction and ordered his release on May 1, 2009.  Torres was indicted for the Morro murder 17 days later. He was later acquitted at trial.
After Jimenez was awarded a certificate of Innocence, he was awarded $199,000 in state compensation. He also filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit against the City of Chicago. In 2012, a jury awarded him $25 million.

By that time, however, Jimenez had been convicted of felony possession of narcotics and sentenced to a year in prison. He became actively involved in rejuvenating a dormant street gang. In August 2015, Jimenez was arrested in Chicago and charged with a federal weapons violation after shooting a former gang member who resisted Jimenez's attempt to force him back into the gang that Jimenez was heading. The prosecution alleged that Jimenez was paying $50,000 recruitment bonuses along with cars and guns to boost membership in the gang. He pled guilty in June 2016. In December 2016, the man shot by Jimenez won a $6 million judgment against Jiminez. In March 2017, Jimenez was sentenced to 9 years in prison. He still faced state charges for the shooting.
Rob Warden

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 8/10/2017
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Sentence:50 years
Age at the date of reported crime:13
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No