On February 14, 2018, the Cook County State’s Attorney dismissed the charges of Exoneration Project client Ariel Gomez who was convicted after a flawed investigation by notorious CPD Det. Reynaldo Guevara. Gomez appeared in court alongside attorney David Owens, and was surrounded by his entire family when the news broke. Gomez is eager to move forward, saying, “I waited twenty years for my day in court. Finally, the truth is coming out. It’s not just Ariel Gomez saying Guevara destroyed his life, there are dozens of families with the same story.”
At 17 years old, Gomez was arrested, convicted, and served 20 years, 4 months, and 4 days for the murder of another Chicago youth who was shot on June 13, 1997, during the citywide celebration of the Chicago Bull’s fifth N.B.A championship.
Detective Guevara was instrumental in obtaining Gomez’s conviction, during the course of both the astonishingly brief investigation and equally rapid trial. At Gomez’s original trial, Guevara testified to participating in essentially every key moment of the Diaz homicide investigation, but when asked in recent court proceedings whether he had framed Gomez, Detective Guevara invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
To date, ten convictions have been thrown out based on Detective Guevara’s misconduct. In December of last year, the convictions of Gabriel Solache and Arturo De-Leon Reyes were dismissed after a Chicago criminal judge accused Detective Guevara of “bald-faced lies” and ruled that Detective Guevara had “eliminated the possibility of being considered a credible witness in any proceeding.”
Detective Guevara was the lead investigator in the case. He was at the scene the night of the incident, and went to the place where the Pathfinder was found. Guevara interviewed witnesses at Area Five, including the other co-defendants. In addition, Guevara was alone in conducting the interrogation of Gomez—a 12 hour process that went over the night and into the afternoon of the next day. Guevara’s interrogation led Gomez to agree to sign a statement concerning the shooting. That statement includes false information added by Guevara throughout the evening, most significantly the false fact that Gomez shot “toward the crowd” as opposed to “into the air.”
Detective Guevara played a similarly central role at trial. He was the only CPD officer to testify at trial and testified extensively—both about Gomez’s statement and about his investigation of the shooting. The problem for the State at trial was that Gomez’s Ruger couldn’t have fired the bullet that killed the victim. The Illinois State Police testing confirmed that fact, which was stipulated to at trial. A further problem with the notion that Gomez shot the victim was that the bullet trajectories make this impossible. Mr. Diaz was on the opposite side of the car when Gomez leaned out the window. For Gomez to have shot over and across the SUV—a raised truck—the trajectory would have to have been downward. However, the bullet trajectory was substantially upward. Given the bullet-wound trajectories, there was no way for Gomez to have committed the crime.
Indeed, the evidence of Gomez’s involvement was so weak that the Court of Appeals reversed Dominguez’s conviction, which had been based upon a theory of accountability, finding that there was insufficient evidence showing that Gomez killed the victim. Three of Gomez’s codefendants were simultaneously acquitted by the trial court.