State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in Chicago has long been criticized for her efforts to bar the public filming of police officers, bizarre positions, and anti-civil liberties positions. Now she is again under fire for refusing to re-open four cases that were identified in an independent investigation as “more likely than not” resulting in the conviction of innocent men.
The investigation, commissioned by mayor Rahm Emanuel and conducted by former U.S. attorney Scott Lassar, looked at the four cases due to the role of police officer named Reynaldo Guevara. The four men — Roberto Almodovar, Robert Bouto, Jose Montanez, and Armando Serrano — were investigated by Guevara. Guevara investigated two men—Juan Johnson and Jacques Rivera who were subsequently freed in wrongful-conviction cases. Chicago paid $15 million to settle a lawsuit with Johnson.
Despite the huge settlement and prior cases, Alvarez dismissed the need to re-open the cases and made the same arguments used in the prior wrongful prosecution cases: saying that re-opening the cases would be “contrary to those made by the triers of fact in each of these cases, and contrary to those made by the Judges that have presided over these cases for decades.” The very same thing could (and was) said about the cases of Juan Johnson and Jacques Rivera.
None of this means that the men are innocent, but a good-faith basis exists to re-open the cases in the interest of justice.