On Monday, in a Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, two of the 51 people who accuse a Chicago police detective of framing them for murder could find out whether they will get a new trial.
Roberto Almodovar, along with William Negron, were convicted in a double homicide in 1995. The pair have always maintained their innocence. Almodovar’s case, and the claims against the detective he says framed him, Reynaldo Guevara, were detailed in a BuzzFeed News investigation published last week. In the wake of the report , activists and elected officials have called for police reform in Chicago and some have said Almodovar should be released.
Five people swear Almodovar was with them on the night two teenagers were shot and killed outside an apartment building in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood in the summer of 1994.
In 2015, an investigation commissioned by the city of Chicago found that Almodovar is more than likely innocent. One of the two eyewitnesses in Almodovar’s case has since recanted. The witness, Kennelly Saez, says Guevara showed him pictures of Almodovar before the police lineup and then lied about it—a clear violation of police protocols.
And yet, Almodovar, now 42, remains in jail, 23-years into a life sentence. His daughter was six months old when he was arrested; she’s now 23.
In 2013, an appeals court ruled that there was enough evidence of possible misconduct by Guevara for a court to review whether Almodovar should get a new trial.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, however, has been fighting that effort. The office has declined to comment on the case, but in court papers has argued Almodovar has failed to prove Guevara improperly influenced line-ups and witness identifications in the case.
Guevara, meanwhile, has asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 159 times in written responses to questions in the Almodovar case.
The decision on a new trial for Almodovar comes as the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, under newly elected State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, has launched a review of all Guevara cases. The office has given no timeline for when that review may be completed.
Almodovar is running out of appeals. At a hearing in courtroom 700 Monday afternoon, Judge James B. Linn is scheduled to hear closing arguments before ruling whether Almodovar and Negron should get new trials.
Linn could rule immediately from the bench or issue a decision at a later date. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office could also announce they no longer wanted to pursue a case against Almodovar, although his lawyer said that is unlikely.
“We have to brace ourselves for a bad outcome,” said Mary Almodovar, Robert’s aunt. She is one of the five people who was with him the night of the murder, and has waged a two-decade-long battle to overturn his conviction.
She added that, regardless of what the judge does, she and her sisters will continue to fight for her nephew’s freedom. They know he is innocent, she said. “We’re gonna keep fighting, because he has to come out.”