CHICAGO – After 24 years, a man who has spent nearly a quarter of a century in prison for a murder he insisted he did not commit will soon be freed.
Richard Kwil saw a Cook County judge overturn his conviction in court on Thursday, the latest in a series of reversed judgments linked to disgraced former Chicago police detective Reynaldo Guevara.
Kwil’s daughter, 25-year-old Aixa Hernandez, applauded her father’s impending release from prison.
“Really happy,” she said. “He was away a really long time. I’m just glad we get to build a relationship finally.”
Hernandez said she has only known her father through short visits, letters and phone calls. It made the moment a judge tossed out her father’s murder conviction more profound.
“It didn’t feel real but it’s really exciting,” she said. “Just glad it’s all over.”
Kwil says not only was he framed by Guevara, but he was also forced to confess to a 1999 murder he did not commit. Last year, Kwil’s co-defendant, David Gecht, was exonerated.
Joshua Tepfer with the Exoneration Project said Kwil’s is the 40th vacated conviction tied to Guevara. He is now calling on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to address at least a dozen other cases.
“(We’re) trying to work with them to do that cohesively, effectively and swiftly,” Tepfer said.
In a statement, the office says, in part, that it is “committed to seeking justice and restoring public trust and is continuing to review cases tied to Guevara’s misconduct.”
But Anand Swaminathan, also with the Exoneration Project, says that more needs to be done.
“Detective Guevara is still collecting a pension,” Swaminathan said. “There has been zero accountability.”
Last month, more lawsuits were filed against Guevara and the city of Chicago. Attorneys say the victims should be compensated for the years of their lives lost and they want the incoming mayor to acknowledge the harm done and change the city’s approach.
“When you’re paying $10 million to outside counsel to defend the indefensible, that’s not an effective risk management strategy,” Tepfer said. “So that money should be going to these victims and the community that were harmed.”
Kwil is expected to be released on Friday.