Roberto Almodovar with his daughter
courtesy of the Almodovar family
CHICAGO—A man who claims he was framed for a 1994 double murder by a retired Chicago detective is expected have his conviction tossed Friday morning and walk free for the first time in 23 years.
Roberto Almodovar, 41, is due in court at 9:30 a.m. Central Time before Judge James B. Linn to hear prosecutors from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office announce they have decided it is “in the best interests of justice” to drop charges against him and his co-defendant, William Negron.
Almodovar’s release comes ten days after a BuzzFeed News investigation into his case and the former detective who helped imprison him for more than two decades. The investigation found that at least 51 people have accused Guevara of framing them for murder and that Chicago authorities had ample warnings about the long series of allegations against the detective.
“I always pictured this day,” Almodovar told BuzzFeed News Thursday just moments before his attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, informed him of his pending release over the phone Thursday. When he heard the news, he said, “Are you serious?”
Almodovar has always maintained his innocence in the shooting deaths of two teens, Amy Merkes and Jorge Rodriguez, who were sitting on an apartment stoop when they were killed in a driveby shooting.
Five people swear Almodovar was with them at the time of the shooting.
One of two surviving eyewitness claimed that Guevara, the lead detective, showed him pictures of Almodovar and Negron before the police lineup and then lied about it—a clear violation of police protocols.
In written responses to questions in Almodovar’s quest for a new trial, Guevara asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 159 times. In 2009, Guevara’s attorney claimed the allegations against him were part of a gang conspiracy, telling the Chicago Tribune: “We strongly believe there is an orchestrated effort by gang members that witnesses were told to recant.”
A prosecutor from the State’s Attorney’s office made a similar argument in court earlier this week, before prosecutors suddenly did an about-face Wednesday and said they would no longer oppose Almodovar and Negron’s efforts to reverse their convictions.
Almodovar’s co-defendant, Negron, is awaiting resentencing in another, unrelated murder and is not expected to be released immediately.
In addition to Almodovar and Negron, there are 27 other people in prison who have alleged that Guevara framed them. Many of them have appeals pending.
Almodovar’s aunts, Mary, Gladys and Iris, were key members of a support group that, over the past two decades, painstakingly pieced together what they claim is a clear pattern of Guevara’s misconduct.
Almodovar, who was initially facing the death penalty when he was charged, said Guevara’s misdeeds shouldn’t be lost in the emotion of his release. “This man,” he said, “tried to murder me.”
BuzzFeed News will be reporting live from Almodovar's court hearing and jail release. Check back here for updates and follow @MelissaDSegura on Twitter for live updates.