COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Tuesday marked the end of a decades-long ordeal for Francisco Benitez, a man falsely convicted of a 1989 fatal shooting of two teen boys.
“It feels great,” said Francisco ‘Frankie’ Benitez. “The judge—the state dropped charges and I’m done. [I’m] Free.”
Cook County prosecutors announced they will be dropping all charges against Benitez, who spent more than three decades behind bars for a crime testimonial evidence shows he didn’t commit.
“Last year, we presented a hearing which showed that two new eyewitnesses, which were never known to him, identified the true perpetrators of this case,” said Josh Tepfer, one of Benitez’s attorneys. “We put on that evidence, and it was clear that they prosecuted and arrested the wrong person.”
Benitez was convicted of fatally shooting two 14-year-old boys in 1991, when he was just 18 years old, but throughout his incarceration, he maintained his innocence.
“What makes it so sad is that Francisco told everyone the moment he was arrested, he gave his alibi that was corroborated by two alibis who also testified at the hearing,” Tepfer said. “And he told everyone that he was coerced and physically abused by corrupt Chicago Police Officers.”
In August, Benitez’s conviction was vacated after a Cook County judge said there was enough evidence provided to prove his innocence. Benitez was released on electronic monitoring he and his legal team waited to see if prosecutors would drop the charges.
“I’m not bitter. The system needs to be fixed,” Benitez said. “The system is very broken and there’s more guys like me going through this. I’m just happy mine is done. Now, we have to focus on other people.”
Moving forward, Benitez said he is looking forward to going to a Chicago Bears game, visiting his sister in Arkansas and going to Disney World to celebrate his mother’s 70th birthday.