CHICAGO — Nearly 30 years ago, Daniel Rodriguez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder.
The conviction stemmed from a 1991 West Side killing investigated by notorious former Chicago Police detective Reynaldo Guevara — a retired CPD investigator accused by dozens of people of “fixing” murder prosecutions by forcing confessions, intimidating witnesses and manipulating lineups.
Rodriguez spent 13 years in prison, steadfastly maintaining his innocence.
On Monday — after years of post-conviction efforts — the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the case against Rodriguez.
Tears started streaming down Rodriguez’s face as soon as an assistant state’s attorney announced the decision.
Outside Judge Sophia Atcherson’s courtroom, Rodriguez and supporters hugged and wept in celebration.
“Do I ugly cry?” Rodriguez said with a laugh.
The decision by the prosecutor’s office largely clears the way for Rodriguez to obtain a certificate of innocence, which would open the door to him filing a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city.
Earlier this year, WGN Investigates reported that the city has already spent $75 million to defend, investigate and settle misconduct claims against Guevara.
More than a dozen family members and supporters joined Rodriguez during his Monday morning hearing on the second floor of the Leighton Criminal Courts Building. Among them was Jacques Rivera, who spent 21 years in prison in another murder case investigated by Rivera. In 2018, a federal jury awarded Rivera more than $17 million in his wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city and Guevara.
Speaking with reporters in the lobby after the hearing concluded, Rodriguez said that it was a day for his family to celebrate, but he noted that there’s another family — that of the victim in the 1991 shooting — left to search for answers.
“There was a victim in this case that didn’t have justice,” Rodriguez said. “His family was told they had justice but they didn’t. so now they live with that pain again.”
“It touches a lot of people on so many levels,” he added. “When does it stop?”