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Jaime Rios

Other Exonerations with Misconduct by Detective Guevara
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Shortly after 11 p.m. on June 27, 1989, Luis Huertas was sitting on a bench in the 1300 block of North Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. He was waiting for his friend, 25-year-old Luis Morales, to spend time shooting pool. Western Avenue, at that time, was the dividing line between the territories of two street gangs—the Spanish Cobras and the Latin Kings.

Huertas had been there for about 45 minutes when he saw two men walk from Potomac Street onto Western Avenue and walk north toward him. The taller of the two men declared that they were both Spanish Cobras as they continued walking north. As Huertas watched, he saw Morales and Javier Torres emerge from an alley onto the sidewalk on Western Avenue.

Morales made a gesture with his arms up and palms outstretched as if he were saying "what's up?" The taller man then took a step back, pointed a pistol at Morales, and began firing. The first shot hit Morales in the head. As Morales fell to the sidewalk, the gunman fired several more times. Torres fled unscathed.

Huertas rushed to his friend, cradled him in his arms, and tried to talk to him, but Morales did not respond. Torres returned and began crying. “No, not New York,” he exclaimed, referring to Morales by his nickname. An ambulance took Morales to the hospital where he was pronounced dead with five gunshot wounds, including one in the side of the head.

A car parked near where Morales fell was dusted for fingerprints. Three .25-caliber shell casings were found on the sidewalk. Two bullets were removed from Morales’s body. Both were deformed.

The following day, Huertas went to a police station where he viewed a lineup. He did not identify anyone. Meanwhile, Torres, who was a member of the Spanish Cobras, told police that the shooter was “Macho” Melendez, who was the leader of the rival Latin Kings. Torres would later claim that was a false accusation because he was angry over Morales’s death, and that he wanted Melendez, who was the head of the Kings in that portion of their territory, to get arrested.

On July 3, 1989, Reynaldo Guevara, a Chicago police gang specialist, began investigating the case although, he later conceded, he was not assigned to it. He said he heard about the shooting and got involved “voluntarily.” He said that informants had told him that the two men involved were known as “Tino” and “Jamie.” Guevara said he recognized “Jamie” as 20-year-old Jaime Rios, a member of the Latin Kings who Guevara knew from prior contacts.

Guevara and several other officers arrested Rios on July 6, 1989, as he was riding his bicycle in front of his home on north Leavitt Street, where he lived with his girlfriend and their two-month-old baby.

He was taken to the police station and questioned by Detective Michael Mason. Rios would later testify that Mason yanked his hair and slammed his head into a table. Ultimately, Rios gave a court-reported statement saying that on the night of the crime, a car had driven down the street, and the driver and a passenger fired guns at his house. He wanted to get revenge because he assumed the car contained Spanish Cobras, so he got his gun, a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver and headed to Western Avenue.

The statement said that Rios wanted to shoot across Western Avenue. “I was going to shoot from inside my territory towards their territory to get them scared the way they scared me,” Rios said.

When he was a block away from Western, he saw a fellow Latin King member, Cristino “Tino” Garcia. “He wanted to come with me,” Rios said. “He went and got the gun.” The gun was a .22-caliber or .25-caliber, Rios said. “It was…a small automatic gun.”

Rios described how he and Garcia crossed Western and began looking for Spanish Cobras, but did not see any of them. At some point, “two guys came out [of an] empty lot,” Rios said. When one of them moved toward Garcia, “And [Garcia] took out his gun and shot the guy.” Rios said the gun was about a foot away from Morales when the first shot was fired.

Rios said he shouted, “King Love!” and fired his gun in the air toward a building in Spanish Cobra territory. He said he and Garcia split up and went home. Rios claimed he later got rid of the gun by throwing it into Lake Michigan.

On July 7, 1989, Guevara brought Huertas to the police station to view another lineup that included Rios. Huertas identified Rios as the gunman.

Guevara also said his informants had given him two locations where two guns allegedly used in the shooting—a .25-caliber revolver and a .38-caliber revolver—had been stashed. At one location, no gun was found. The other location was the home of Benjamin Carrero. When police arrived, Carrero’s girlfriend tossed a .32-caliber revolver from the home. Carrero was taken to the police station. Police said he ultimately gave a statement saying that Rios had brought him a gun about 12:30 a.m. on June 28, 1989—less than two hours after Morales was shot—and said, “Hold this for me. I just shot somebody. I will be back.”

Rios was charged with first-degree murder.

On July 28, 1989, police arrested Garcia. He was placed in a lineup but was not identified. Garcia then was interrogated, but did not make a statement. Years later, Garcia would provide an affidavit saying that when he arrived at the station, Guevara told him he was accused of murder. Garcia said that several officers interrogated him, including Guevara, who was “very loud and physical with me.”

Garcia said in the statement—given in 2020—that Guevara “read a piece of paper to me saying that I was involved and that I should sign a statement saying that someone else did it.” Garcia said he told Guevara he was home with his family and not in the area of the shooting.

“After that point, that’s when Detective Reynaldo Guevara got very physical, by placing a phone book on my head, then hitting me across the head with a billy club or a flashlight, until I fell to my knees,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he told Guevara he would sign a statement, but first he wanted to make a phone call. Garcia called his sister and asked her to find a lawyer. “But when officer Guevara heard me tell my sister to get a lawyer, he got really mad and took me back to the interrogation room, [where] he started smacking me around with [an] open hand,” Garcia said.

A few minutes later, a police officer came to the door and told Guevara to stop hitting Garcia because the defense lawyer had arrived. The lawyer advised that he could not stay all night, but if the physical abuse continued, Garcia should not sign a statement. Subsequently, Garcia was released and not charged after he refused to sign a statement.

On November 28, 1990, Rios went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. Four months earlier, Guevara, after 18 years as a police officer, had been promoted to detective. Huertas testified and identified Rios as the gunman.

Officer Joseph Moran, police evidence technician, testified that he recovered three .25-caliber shell casings. He said he did not recover any .22-caliber or .38-caliber casings. He said he dusted a car near Morales’s body for fingerprints and found five fingerprints that were suitable for comparison. Police officer Fred Harris testified that Rios was excluded as the source of the prints.

Torres testified that he did not identify anyone in the lineup. He said he had named Macho Melendez because he did not get along with him. Torres said he did see Melendez and someone he didn’t recognize in the alley a few minutes before the shooting.

A medical examiner testified that Morales had been shot five times. There was no evidence that any of the shots were fired at close range as Rios claimed in his statement.

Guevara testified about how he heard from informants that Rios and Garcia were involved. He said he brought Rios to the station and left him with Detectives Mason and Ernest Halvorsen. Guevara said he left the station and when he returned, he learned that Rios had given a statement. He also said that when he began investigating the case, he did not read the detective reports already on file and was unaware that Torres had named Macho Melendez as the gunman.

Carrero testified and said on June 28, 1989 at about 12:30 a.m., Rios brought him a gun. Carrero denied telling police or the grand jury that Rios admitted that he had just shot someone. The prosecution impeached him with his statement and his grand jury testimony saying that Rios had admitted shooting someone.

Carrero said he made the statement to police only after police threatened to lock him up and take his child away from him. He did not identify the officer who threatened him.

Detective Mason testified and denied that he physically abused Rios. Mason admitted that the gun recovered from Carrero was a .32-caliber revolver and that it was impossible for that gun to have fired .25-caliber bullets or to have ejected the .25-caliber casings found near Morales’s body.

After Rios’s statement was read to the jury, the prosecution rested its case. The defense called Samantha Hudson who lived in a building bordering the alley from which Huertas said the two men emerged before Morales was shot. Hudson said she confronted two men in the alley when she went to take out the trash. Hudson said she had viewed two lineups containing Rios and had not made any identification.

Rios testified and denied he committed the crime. He said that Guevara and Mason and another detective interrogated him. Rios said that when he denied knowledge of the crime, Mason yanked his hair and slammed his head into the table. He said that Guevara fed him the details of the shooting which he ultimately incorporated into his statement. He said they threatened to take away his child unless he made a statement, and that all he had to do was just admit he was there and they would not take his child away. Rios said he agreed to make the statement out of fear of losing his son. He denied giving a gun to Carrero or telling Carrero that he had shot someone.

On November 30, 1990, the jury convicted Rios of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court upheld the conviction and sentence in July 1991.

On April 6, 2008, Rios was released from prison on parole. He had spent more than 17 years in prison after his conviction.

In January 2021, attorney Stephen Richards filed a motion seeking to vacate Rios’s conviction. The motion said that in 2020, Carrero recanted his grand jury and trial testimony that Rios gave him a gun. He also again recanted his original statement that Rios admitted he shot someone. In the 2020 affidavit, Carrero said for the first time that Guevara was the officer who coerced him into falsely stating that Rios had given him the gun and admitted to shooting someone. In his recantation, Carrera said that Guevara told him that if he did not implicate Rios, Guevara would charge Carrera with possession of the gun and take away his child.

Huertas, also in 2020, gave a statement saying that Guevara gave him a photograph of Rios before he viewed Rios in a lineup, and threatened to lock Huertas up if he did not identify Rios. Huertas said that Rios was the only person in the photo lineup who was also in the live lineup. And Garcia gave a statement in 2020 saying that he did not commit any murder with Rios, that he was home at the time of the crime, and that Guevara beat him to try to force him to admit involvement in the shooting.

The motion also cited the growing body of evidence of misconduct by Guevara that resulted in false confessions by defendants and false statements by witnesses implicating defendants. Guevara had retired from the department in 2005. When attorneys sought to take his deposition, Guevara invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions.

In February 2004, Juan Johnson, whose 30-year prison sentence for a murder conviction had been vacated in 2002, was acquitted at a retrial. A federal jury later awarded Johnson $21 million in damages from the city based on evidence that the original three eyewitnesses recanted their testimony and revealed that they were coerced by Guevara to identify Johnson.

In October 2011, Jacques Rivera was exonerated of a murder. He later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing Guevara and other officers of burying evidence and pressuring the witness to falsely identify him as the triggerman. In 2018, a jury awarded Rivera $17.175 million.

In 2016, the murder convictions of Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano were vacated, and the charges were dismissed. Both had been convicted on false testimony that Guevara had coerced.

In April 2017, Roberto Almodovar and William Negron were exonerated after evidence showed that Guevara had improperly influenced witnesses to identify them as the shooter and driver in a drive-by shooting that killed two people and wounded a third.

In November 2017, Jose Maysonet became the seventh person to be exonerated based on misconduct by Guevara. Maysonet, who was serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, falsely confessed after a 17-hour interrogation punctuated by beatings and torture by Guevara.

In December 2017, Gabriel Solache and Arturo Deleon-Reyes, who claimed that Guevara had beaten them into confessing to a murder they didn’t commit, had their murder convictions vacated and the charges dismissed.

By 2022, others who had been exonerated by that time included Thomas Sierra, Ariel Gomez, Ricardo Rodriguez, Robert Bouto, Geraldo Iglesias, Demetrius Johnson, Reynaldo Munoz, and Daniel Rodriguez.

In July 2022, the prosecution agreed to vacate and dismiss the murder conviction of Jose Cruz, Eruby Abrego, Jeremiah Cain, and brothers Juan and Rosendo Hernandez.

On August 9, 2022, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office agreed to dismiss the convictions of Rios and six more defendants who presented evidence that they were victims of Guevara’s misconduct.

Within days, Richards had filed a petition seeking a certificate of innocence for Rios as well as a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago and Guevara, Mason, and Halvorsen.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/6/2022
Last Updated: 9/6/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:36 years
Race/Ethnicity:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No